The Legal Services Board has approved the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s application to become a licensing authority for alternative business structures.

At a meeting this week, it also approved the SRA’s new Handbook, which sets out the standards and requirements for principles-based outcomes-focused regulation (OFR).

The decision paves the way for the launch of OFR on 6 October, when the Handbook comes into effect.

The Handbook, which has been available in draft form since 6 April, brings together all the regulatory requirements that apply to individuals and firms regulated by the SRA.

The requirements will apply both to traditional law firms and to ABS, ensuring the same level of regulatory protection to consumers regardless of the type of business providing the legal services.

SRA chief executive Antony Townsend said: 'The Handbook is the culmination of a great deal of collaborative work between the SRA and our stakeholders. It is a key part of our new regulatory regime, putting the needs of clients at the heart of regulation, and offering greater freedoms in the delivery of legal services.’

Regarding the approval to become an ABS licensing authority, which still requires parliamentary approval, Townsend: ‘We believe that it is in the public interest for us to regulate ABSs, as this allows us to ensure that these new business are subject to the same rigorous professional standards as those expected of traditional law firms.’

He said: 'We can now look forward to being one of the first licensing authorities for ABSs. We remain on track to be ready to license from October, but this is subject to the parliamentary timetable and process.'