The Law Society of Scotland could license new legal businesses by spring after submitting its application to regulate the new entities.
The society applied to the Scottish government to become an approved regulator of new licensed legal service providers (LPs), the Scottish equivalent of alternative business structures.
The new structures, permitted under the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010, will allow solicitors to set up in business with non-solicitors for the first time. In contrast to the situation in England and Wales, solicitors or other regulated professions will have to own 51% of any new licensed providers.
In a referendum of the profession in 2010, 81% of voting members backed the society applying to become one of three approved regulators.
Society president Austin Lafferty said: ‘While there is more work to be done by us and the Scottish government, all the indications are that, if the application is approved, the society could become a regulator by spring next year, with the first LPs expected to be authorised soon after that.’
He said the society’s draft scheme aims to ensure that LPs, when providing legal services, are subject to the same degree of regulation as traditional firms.
‘It should also reassure the profession that those who set up LPs, which must have a solicitor as head of legal services, have to go through a robust process before they can be licensed to deliver legal services and will be subject to a similar regime to solicitors,’ said Lafferty.
Lafferty said there is ‘increasing interest’ among the profession about the opportunities of new business models. ‘A few years from now it may be the norm to see high street solicitors team up with other professionals, such as accountants, to broaden their range of client services.’