Alternative Business Structures (ABS) – High Street and Specialist Firms Grasp the Opportunities

on 25 October, 2012 Email this Email this - Print this Print this

Founder member of Core Legal David Mort, Co-owner and Director of IRN Research, looks at the progress of ABS so far and notes the significant number of high street and specialist law firms adopting the ABS model.

 

In advance of the ABS launch earlier this year, many felt that big brands from outside the legal market would use the ABS model to enter the legal sector. So far, these big brands have largely been conspicuous by their absence, with the exception of the Co-op which was already offering legal services (and brands like the AA and Saga plus one or two insurance companies which have signalled their intentions to become ABS).

By October 2012, around 30 ABSs had been licensed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and another 150 or so were waiting for a decision on their license. There have also been another 11 specialist conveyancing ABSs licensed by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers. The 30 licensed so far are a mix of high street firms, volume legal providers, new start-ups, and niche law firms but there are as many medium and smaller law firms becoming ABSs as there are larger firms.

If there is a threat to high street legal from ABS, it is so far coming from established law firms like Irwin Mitchell and Russell Jones & Walker (plus the Co-op) which will use ABS, and external investment, to grow their volume personal injury and other consumer law businesses. Irwin Mitchell has just announced that it will embark on its first TV ad campaign this year to boost brand awareness.

There are likely to be some “big brands” in the remaining 150 ABS applications but we can also expect the mix of licences to continue to mirror the pattern set in the first 30, with more high street and specialist law firms taking the plunge.

 

Licensed ABSs, October 2012

 

Large established law firms

Bott & Co
Franklins
Irwin Mitchell
Plexus Law
Russell Jones & Walker
Winkwood Sherwood

All, apart from Franklins, are top 200 law firms. Already, all have leading positions in the personal injury market and will use the ABS model to grow business.

General practice medium law firms
JCP Solicitors
John Welch & Stammers Solicitors
Langley Wellington

John Welch and Langley Wellington are using the ABS model to allow a non-lawyer director to become a partner. JCP – converted from LDP. 

Specialist law firms
Abbis Cadres (employment)
Boyle Leonard Wilden (criminal law)
Isadore Goodman (insolvency)
NAS Legal (advocacy services in court)
Parchment Law (will writers)
Plain Law Solicitors (niche property law)
Strata Solicitors (liability claims for insurers)
TPP Law (public sector law)
Tracy Miller Family Law

Mainly using ABS model to allow non-lawyer employees or relatives to become partners.

Medium/smaller personal injury law firms
Accident Advice Solicitors
Amelans
Kayes Solicitors
Mulderrigs Solicitors
New Law Solicitors

The first 2 law firms (and Mulderrigs) are bringing various non-lawyer employees into business as partners, e.g. Marketing Director, Accountant, partner’s wife. Kayes relaunching as Pudsey Law and moving from PI into other practice areas. New Law developing white label service.

Big Brands
Cooperative Legal Services

Already a £30m+ legal business and just expanded into family law.

Start-ups/new businesses
AAG Legal Services
Crabtree Law
Red Bar Law
Thinking Legal

AAG – private client services and 2 non-lawyer shareholders; Crabtree Law – new business set up by Crabtree Property Management;  Red Bar Law – panel of 120 barristers with fixed-fee advice; Thinking Legal – 2-person commercial law firm looking for partnerships with others.

Others
Lawbridge Solicitors
Nicola Phillips Solicitors

Lawbridge – Practice Manager (wife) to become shareholder; Sole practitioner Nicola Phillips – mother to become partner.

 

Source: Solicitors Regulation Authority/IRN Research

 


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