A trade association has become the first such body to set up a legal practice to charge members for its services.

The British Printing Industries Federation will use its existing in-house lawyers to create a spin-off legal subsidiary called BPIF Legal Ltd.

The company started trading this month and has successfully applied for an alternative business structure licence from the SRA.

The business will target small and medium-sized businesses in the print sector which do not currently see law firms as affordable.

Anne Copley, head of legal, said lifting the previous restrictions on associations charging for legal services will make it easier to justify the cost of in-house lawyers.

She added: ‘[The restrictions] have always been a severe constraint on any growth in the number of lawyers and the extent of the legal services offered.

‘These in-house lawyers have built up substantial experience of the relevant industry sector, and are perfectly placed to offer the sort of practical, commercial legal advice that their members require.’

BPIF Legal currently consists of Copley, solicitors Nicola Langley and Carole Banwell, and administrator Cathy Priddle.

Members of the association currently get free legal documentation and advice by telephone on commercial matters, as well as full advice and representation at employment tribunals.

The legal subsidiary will act as a top-up for the services offered as part of membership, with discounted rates for members.