SRA grants the 20th ABS licence

Twenty law firms and organisations have now been granted alternative business structure (ABS) status, which allows legal services providers to be owned and/or managed by non-lawyers and operate in conjunction with other services. Three licences have been granted in August so far.

City law firm Winckworth Sherwood was granted an ABS licence on 2 August. The firm had previously been structured as a legal disciplinary practice, which allowed non-lawyers to become equity partners. The ABS move was required to allow these non-lawyers to retain equity.

Meanwhile, national firm Irwin Mitchell became the first multi-licensed ABS on 20 August. The firm has five licences covering its range of operations; Irwin Mitchell LLP (legal services), Ascent Collections Ltd (field agency and debt collection), Irwin Mitchell Trustees Ltd (estate administration), Coris UK ltd (insurance claims handling) and Irwin Mitchell Trust Corporation Ltd (acts as deputy for the Court of Protection). Irwin Mitchell is the largest law firm yet to adopt ABS status.

Finall, Parabis Law (part of the Parabis Group) became the 20th ABS on 22 August. The organisation is backed by Duke Street, a private equity firm - which makes Parabis Law the first ABS to use this model. The Parabis Group offers a range of services in the insurance sector alongside its legal arm.

Antony Townsend, SRA chief executive, said: "The ABS total is gathering pace, as is the variety of models that we are seeing emerge. Our authorisation system has been built to be flexible enough to deal with a range of organisations with hugely varying corporate structures and robust enough to apply the same stringent suitability criteria by which traditional firms are judged."

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