Barristers wanting to set up a company or a partnership to offer reserved legal services can now apply for ‘entity’ licensing by their own regulator, the Bar Standards Board announced today.

However the BSB is still unable to say when it will be able to begin licensing alternative business structures.

Surveys show that up to 34% of family barristers and 26% of criminal barristers have ‘definite or possible intentions’ to become involved with entities rather than continuing as self-employed.

The BSB said that becoming a regulator of entities would help it encourage new advocacy-focused business models to emerge and flourish, broadening client choice. Its application was approved by the Legal Services Board super-regulator last year.

However the approval covers only lawyer-owned entities; barristers setting up an ABS must apply to another approved regulator, such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority. 

A BSB spokesperson said today that a formal application for ABS regulation has not yet been made, though a draft application was submitted before Christmas. 

The BSB’s director of supervision, Oliver Hanmer, described the arrival of entity regulation as ‘a major chapter in the story of the bar’.

‘Adjusting the way in which it does business is critical to the profession’s posterity,’ he said. ‘As a regulator, it is our job to do what we can to enable barristers to alter the ways in which they can structure their practice so it better meets clients’ needs.’