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Solicitors' firms and ABS must be treated equally

3 August 2016

Fair competition between solicitors' firms and Alternative Business Structures (ABS) benefits clients and is in the public interest, the Law Society of England and Wales said today in its response to the government's consultation on reducing barriers to entry for ABS in the legal services sector.

Law Society chief executive Catherine Dixon commented:

'The Law Society is supportive of ABS, they provide choice for solicitors as well as their clients. However, it is critical that the regulatory framework, including client protection, is equal for ABS and solicitors' firms as this will enable fair competition, which benefits clients and is in the public interest.

'ABS are new entrants to the legal services sector and the Law Society's 2016 Future of Legal Services Report envisages that by 2020, ABS will be a fully integrated part of the profession, competing with smaller and medium-sized firms.'

Dixon continued:

'The Ministry of Justice has consulted on making relatively minor changes to regulation processes for ABS. To ensure equivalency and fairness between ABS and solicitors' firms, the Law Society is supportive of the proposals. We recommend a period of regulatory stability while the market adjusts.'

The Law Society notes that initial take-up of ABS has been reasonably slow and has mostly been by established solicitors' firms taking advantage of the opportunity for non-lawyers to become owners or investors.

However, the Society believes that significant change in the market is likely in the next few years as ABS leverage capital to invest in technology or processes to make their business more profitable.

Dixon concluded:

'The Law Society strongly recommends that the ABS sector is reviewed three years from the implementation of these proposals that this includes an equality impact assessment to gauge whether changes have adversely impacted on diversity in the legal services market.'

Read our response in full

Ends

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Press office contact

Harriet Beaumont | Harriet.Beaumont@LawSociety.org.uk