Not-for-profit organisations will be exempt from having to register as alternative business structures until at least 2015.

The Legal Services Board stated yesterday that work on licensing so-called ‘special bodies’ will be deferred until the completion of the government’s review of legal services regulation.

The Legal Services Act currently gives transitional protection to bodies such as law centres, trade unions and charities but it was always envisaged that their exemption from ABS requirements would be temporary.

The change was intended to increase protection for consumers using services provided by special bodies, as well as to ensure their lawyers are treated consistently with lawyers at traditional firms.

In a statement released yesterday, the board said: ‘We will keep this situation under review, and will update stakeholders on the future timetable. At this point, however, we do not anticipate further work on this issue before 2015, meaning that there would be an additional period after this date before the transitional protection would come to an end.’

The LSB consulted on the issue last year and in December predicted that ABS applications would be open to special bodies by April 2014. The board had previously expressed a desire to end transitional protection by April this year but that was deemed unworkable.

The regulator has estimated around 330 organisations are likely to need a licence.

In a statement covering a range of issues, the LSB has also this week sought to clarify the position for those commercial law firms currently in a transitional period that will need an ABS licence.

The regulator has previously indicated this transitional period cannot continue indefinitely but there must be a licensing authority in place to license these firms.

A number of them are currently regulated by the Intellectual Property Regulation Board which has applied to license ABSs.