Welcome to the first edition of Upload Professional Practices – MAB Intelligence Tracker.
Irwin Mitchell becomes the largest law firm to convert to an alternative business structure
Irwin Mitchell was one of the first law firms to declare its intentions to become an alternative business structure (ABS), when it firstly converted to a legal disciplinary practice in May 2010, promoting non-lawyers to its equity structure, and then applied for ABS status when the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) began taking applications in January 2012. The firm has now become the first multi-licensed ABS, with five licenses covering a range of business operations.
Crabtree Property Management becomes the first multi-disciplinary alternative business structure to enter the legal services market
Crabtree Property Management, a London-based property management company, has become the first multi-disciplinary ABS after gaining its licence from the SRA. The firm has set up Crabtree Law, which has one in-house lawyer offering a fixed-fee property litigation service to the firm’s contacts and clients. The licence is effective from 1 September 2012.
Duke Street becomes the first private equity firm to own part of a law firm following Parabis’ ABS approval
Duke Street has became the first private equity firm to own part of a law firm after the Parabis Group received its ABS licence in August. Parabis Group is comprised of two insurance law firms, Plexus Law and Cogent Law, Parabis Claims Solutions, which specialises with claimant legal services, and health and safety group Argent.
Winckworth Sherwood states that it has no immediate plans to seek external investment despite its ABS status
Winckworth Sherwood has said that it has no immediate plans to seek external investment… despite converting to an ABS on 2 August 2012. Although the firm has officially been granted an ABS licence, the firm was previously trading as a legal disciplinary practice (LDP) so that it could allow non-lawyers to become equity partners; its LDP status therefore required it to convert to an ABS once the Legal Service Act came into force.
Law firm launches stand-alone consumer legal expenses insurance scheme for consumers
LawStore, the legal services brand set up by Bromley-based MTA Solicitors, has launched a stand-alone legal expenses insurance schemes for consumers. Members of the scheme pay £45 a year and receive (1) one hour’s legal consultation with a solicitor every month, (2) a ten per cent discount on other legal services, whether it charged on an hourly rate basis or as a fixed fee, and (3) an annual health check. Family memberships are also available.
LawStore is intending to expand across the country, with stores in Cambridge and London expected to open within the next six months.
Who else became an ABS in August?
- Liverpool-based practice Tracey Miller Family Law has become the first specialist family law firm to become an ABS.
- Plymouth-based Boyle Leonard Willden has become the first criminal law practice to become an ABS.
- Two conveyancing practices – Enact and Total Conveyancing Services, the trading name of LMS Direct Conveyancing Ltd – have become ABSs and will be have licensed by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers. Enact, which used to be the volume conveyancing arm of Addleshaw Booth & Co (now Addleshaw Goddard), is now owned by First Title – part of First American Financial Corporation – while Total Conveyancing Services is owned equally by LMS Direct Conveyancing, Connells estate agents and LSL Property Services plc.
- London and Norwich-based Isadore Goldman, which specialises in personal insolvency, corporate recovery, bank recovery, and property and commercial litigation. The firm has become an ABS as it was a LDP with a non-lawyer partner.
- Franklins Solicitors, a 12-partner law firm with offices in Northampton and Milton Keynes.
- Kings Court Trust, a non-solicitor probate provider. It has chosen to be regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.
- Gloucestershire high street firm Langley Wellington.
Howard Kennedy and Finers Stephens Innocent are set to merge on 1 November 2012.
Salans and SNR Denton have will vote on a possible merger in September 2012.
Berlad Graham has become the latest ‘virtual’ law firm to apply to become an ABS, as it bids to allow non-lawyers to share the equity. The firm, which practices litigation, property, matrimonial and private client work, is one of a growing number of ‘virtual’ law practices that operate without a conventional office. The firm hopes to become an ABS in October 2012.
In August, the American Bar Association rejected a proposal to rule out all further studies on non-lawyer ownership of law firms; however, it has also indicated that ABS arrangements remain firmly off the agenda for now. This follows a recent resolution passed by the French Conseil National des Barreaux, which ruled that ABSs cannot be viewed as law firms and should not be allowed to operate in France, as they conflict with the independence of the legal profession. The decision could have big implications for English law firms that are, or are hoping to become, an ABS and who have a French office. It is probable that such a law firm would need to find a structure that would allow it to isolate its French operation from the rest of the business.