The bar regulator is expected to begin licensing non-lawyer-owned legal firms later this year, subject to the lord chancellor’s rubber stamp.
This follows a recommendation to Michael Gove this morning from super-regulator Legal Services Board that the Bar Council becomes a licensing authority for alternative business structures (ABSs).
Gove’s endorsement will enable the Bar Council to delegate to frontline regulator the Bar Standards Board the right to license ABSs to conduct reserved legal activities.
The super-regulator has also recommended that the Bar Council be designated a licensing authority for the provision of immigration advice and services in its capacity as a qualifying regulator.
The BSB’s application to become a licensing authority for ABSs was approved by the LSB in March and the lord chancellor’s approval is the final hurdle left to clear. The bar regulator is set to join the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Council for Licenced Conveyancers, Intellectual Property Regulation Board and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales in being able to authorise non-lawyer-owned legal firms.
LSB chair Sir Michael Pitt (pictured) said: ’ABSs are a valuable contributor to the innovation and increase in consumer choice that we wish to see across the whole legal services sector. We are therefore delighted to be recommending to the lord chancellor that the Bar Council becomes a licensing authority for ABS.’
The BSB has been able to authorise non-ABS entities since April 2015 but there has been limited interest so far. Last October’s Bar Conference heard that all but a handful of applications for entity status had come from single-barrister operations seeking to practise through a limited company for tax planning purposes.
BSB director of regulatory policy Ewen MacLeod said today: ’We welcome today’s announcement. We want to permit innovation in the legal services market, which we hope will increase choice and provide other lasting benefits for consumers.’