It is nearly 10 months since the Solicitors Regulation Authority approved its first alternative business structures and over a year since the regulator was granted permission to do so. How has it been for you?
There’s a tendency among some Gazette readers to blame the process of opening up the market for destabilising and deskilling a proud and independent profession. But that is a simplistic view, and the LSB’s Chris Kenny is surely right to deny that the Clementi reforms were some sort of Thatcherite plot to immiserate lawyers.
One could argue that the freedoms enshrined in the Legal Services Act 2007 gave solicitors extra tools in their armoury to adjust to changes in the market that were coming anyway. Swingeing public funding cuts and the Jackson reforms constitute a double-whammy that can hardly be blamed on the former Prudential chairman, after all.
Perhaps ABSs will enhance access to justice and serve as a partial corrective in the face of what can only be described as a bout of savage retrenchment on the part of government. We shall see.
The pace of ABS approvals quickened markedly before Christmas and takeup has been solid if not startling. But as another roundtable participant, Connect2Law’s David Jabbari, observed, it will probably be three or four years before we can gauge their true significance.