The Bar Standards Board is simplifying criteria for approving new business entities, ahead of an application to become a licensing authority for alternative business structures.

Several compulsory rules are to be made discretionary to make the authorisation regime more ‘agile’. These currently oblige entities to have: at least one practising barrister who is a manager and owner; an owner that is also a manager; and to conduct only ‘legal activities’.

The revised criteria will be included in a policy statement to be published with a new Handbook due to go live in January 2014.

Board vice-chair Patricia Robertson QC said: ‘The legal services profession is rapidly changing. We want to ensure that barristers can adapt to meet consumers’ needs in an increasingly competitive and innovative market and that our regulatory procedures respond to a changing market.’

Robertson said the change, together with amended public access rules and allowing self-employed barristers to conduct litigation, will ‘empower barristers to broaden their business base to better meet consumers’ needs’.

Entities are likely to be companies or partnerships and the Legal Services Act 2007 requires them to be authorised before they can undertake reserved legal activities. The BSB’s initial proposals concern entities that are entirely owned and managed by lawyers.

The BSB will apply to the Legal Services Board to be a licensing authority for alternative business structures, once its ‘non-ABS’ entity regulation regime has been approved.

Barristers can already set up ABSs, but they currently need to be regulated by another approved regulator such as the SRA.