A Parliamentary seal of approval has been given to the first UK regulator responsible for monitoring legal services firms working as alternative business structures (ABSs). Ratified on 6 October – the very day that ABSs launched in the UK – the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) is now able to license companies that have applied for ABS status. In its core discipline of conveyancing, the body has already established a track record for safeguarding consumer interests. Certification by the CLC will allow those firms to have greater flexibility in the ways they deliver their offerings, and in their ownership arrangements.
In a press release, the new regulator welcomed those changes to the UK legal landscape. ‘ABSs are the most radical aspect of the Legal Services Act 2007, which aimed to liberalise the market by providing increased choice for consumers,’ it said. ‘Because ABSs allow non-lawyers to own law firms, legal services can be offered alongside related services such as estate agency, providing a “one-stop shop” for consumers.’ The CLC is currently the only regulator to have been officially designated a licensing authority for ABSs.
To mark the start of its new role, the body awarded the first ever ABS licence to a UK applicant. The recipient was Premier Property Lawyers, a wholly owned subsidiary of web-based estate agency, myhomemove.com.
Licensed firms will be required to demonstrate that they:
i) Act with independence and integrity;
ii) Maintain high standards of work;
iii) Act in the best interest of clients;
iv) Deal with regulators and ombudsmen in an open and cooperative way; and
v) Promote ease of access and service.
CLC Chief Executive Victor Olowe said: ‘We have over 20 years’ experience in regulating the licensed conveyancing profession and we will be extending the same rigorous, but proportionate, approach to the regulation of ABS. We are very proud to be the first Licensing Authority designated by Parliament to regulate these new business structures. We believe that ABS is good news for consumers. Opening up the market will offer people a greater choice of legal service provider.’
David Edmonds – chair of the Legal Services Board (LSB), which has overseen the implementation of numerous UK legal reforms – added: ‘This is an important move forward after three years’ work by the Board and our partners across the approved regulators and in the Ministry of Justice. We inherited a timetable of ABS implementation in 2013 and have beaten that by fifteen months. That’s an achievement we can all be proud of. I congratulate the CLC in becoming the first regulator of ABS and look forward to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) joining them before the end of the year.’
To find out more about the CLC, click here
As a new landscape for the UK legal sector becomes a reality, the first regulator of alternative business structures – and first firm to work in that framework – are unveiled