A marine law and agriculture specialist has become the latest member of the bar to set up an alternative business structure in a trend which he says could lead to a harmonious fusion with the solicitors profession.  

David Hassall (pictured), who practises from 4/5 Gray’s Inn Square, received confirmation of the ABS licence from the Solicitors Regulation Authority last month.

Hassall said he will use the licence to bring non-lawyers into his business and create an incentive scheme for staff. ‘I thought in the rapidly changing legal landscape an ABS was the most appropriate way of delivering legal services,’ Hassall told the Gazette.

‘Through it I could fuse the two professions [solicitors and at the bar] harmoniously, and recruit accountancy services to be sure my business plan stands up.

Every member of the team will be offered a share in the profits along the lines of the model established by the retailer Waitrose, he said. 

Hassall stressed that the SRA had been a ‘delight’ to work with and had helped to improve his original submission.

Few barristers have opted to create ABSs since the first, London-based Richmond Chambers, was successful in applying in June 2013.

According to a survey published last year by the Bar Standards Board, which will later this year apply to the LSB to become an approved ABS regulator, between one in 10 and one in five barristers may set up or join an ABS in future.

Intentions were strongest among family and criminal barristers, where around one-quarter had definite or potential plans regarding entities with barristers and other lawyers as owners and managers.

The SRA has now approved around 350 ABSs, the most recent being top-100 firm Foot Anstey and Birmingham firm DBS Law.

Foot Anstey, which operates from five offices across south-west England, said the licence will allow it to bring non-lawyers into the management structure.