Law Society president John Wotton will today spell out his belief that alternative business structures can present a significant opportunity for the legal sector.
Speaking at a meeting of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Ethics, being held in Toronto, Wotton will tell delegates that firms must capitalise on the new structures when they are introduced in October.
He will tell the commission: ‘In our view, ABSs may in practice provide a means for widening access to legal services by introducing cutting edge customer service practices, operating longer opening hours and providing more services via modern communication methods - although all of these can be, and in some cases already are, achieved by traditionally-structured firms.
‘We cannot predict what form of business model will be most widely adopted, but it is our expectation that as long as there is a level playing field in terms of regulation, firms will seek out the most advantageous structure for themselves.’
Wotton said it is of ‘supreme importance’ to the Law Society that ABSs are subject to strict controls on fitness to own, whilst still being subject to the regulatory requirements applied to other legal practices.
He added: ‘It has long been our view that it is imperative that protections enjoyed by consumers who choose ABS should be the same as those provided by law firms.’
The commission has asked the Law Society to feed into its consultation on regulatory developments, and the two bodies have held several meetings on the changing legal services market.
In addition to his speech today, the president will be holding meetings with bar leaders from key jurisdictions during the conference in Toronto, Canada, including the president of the Korean Bar Association – a jurisdiction which has just opened its legal services market to EU law firms through the EU-Korea free trade agreement.
He will also be meeting Latin American bar leaders, a market of growing interest and one in which the Law Society has been increasing activity through events both in the region and at home.