Thursday, 5 January 2012

The ABS arrives at last..or does it

In this structure in Serjeant' Inn, I once worked
before it took on this alternative form
The Ministry of Justice marked the entry into business of the Solicitor's Regulation Authority as an ABS regulator on 3 January 2012, with an inspirational  press release . Amongst other good and proper things, the Minister suggests
"Customers will find legal services more accessible, providing a much more competitive and efficient service."
 It is unlikely that many sole practitioners will be transforming themselves into ABS with SRA regulation. Although the SRA team reports that they are ready and waiting, it looks as if the customers may have to wait at least another six months before they can go knocking for real services onto an ABS door, as that is how long it is going to take the SRA to make a decision on your application ( if they don't decide to extend the time to 9 months).  Should you be interested in applying  this is the link you need along with at least £2000 for the initial fee to get your application looked at.

The awesome regulatory burden is likely to deter existing law firms who merely want to improve and modernise their management structures. The Lawyer magazine reports that the insurance company Admiral might constitute itself as an ABS as a workaround to recover some profits to replace those lost when the referral fee ban was introduced. Frankly, this probably wasn't what the Ministry of Justice had in mind, when they began this well-intentioned initiative to bring modern management practice into the legal world by abolishing the rule that only lawyers can manage lawyers.

Across the Atlantic, I was amazed by this piece in which the IBM Gen Counsel Robert Weber rails against the possibility of such structures being introduced into the US market. In his view investment isn't needed because there already exists global law firms, who are market leaders without having needed external investment. I am sure that his law firm suppliers won't mind the barriers to new entrants remaining high.

IPReg is already applying to the Legal Services Board to become an ABS regulator in its own right and it is likely that any IP practice or new business support firm offering low-cost IP business advice that Hargreaves wants to see (see my earlier post here) will prefer to use that regulator.  Incidentally, if you want a closer look at how this whole process works, there are currently vacancies on IPReg for professional members at £320 a day. More information here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"the work load is greater during the period when IPReg is pursuing its licensing application to regulate alternative business structures"

Quiet all other times, twiddling thumbs, waiting for the rush of complaints?