Alternative business structures will not be introduced in Scotland until the end of the year at the earliest.
The Scottish government wants more time to review the Law Society of Scotland’s application to be an approved regulator.
The Society – the only applicant to regulate ‘licensed legal services providers (LPs)’, as ABSs will be known north of the border – had hoped for approval by the end of April, but has accepted it will now have to wait at least until the end of 2013.
The new structures, permitted under the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010, allow solicitors to set up in business with non-solicitors for the first time. In contrast with England and Wales however, solicitors or other regulated professions must own at least 51% of any new licensed providers.
A spokesman for the Law Society of Scotland said: ‘Whilst the Society submitted its scheme last December and has been in discussion with the Scottish government since, there remain outstanding issues where comments from government are awaited.
‘Even once those are received, it will be some time before the model can be finalised and resubmitted.’
Once the bid is resubmitted, the government will have to consult with the lord president, the Office of Fair Trading and other interested parties.
The Society said the Scottish government was unhappy with its approach to regulating LP entities in the same way as it currently regulates individuals.
The Society added: ‘This approach is the one most likely to promote achievement of the regulatory objectives, particularly those related to consumer and public protection, and the promotion of fair competition.
‘We believe it is both possible and reasonable to adapt a scheme of regulation for individuals to apply to entities.’
Society president Austin Lafferty has said there is ‘increasing interest’ among the profession in setting up new business models.
The Scottish legal landscape appears to be changing quickly, with a number of high-profile mergers announced last year between firms north and south of the border and the collapse of commercial firm Semple Fraser last month.