Early this month the Government announced reforms aimed at opening the legal services market further to new businesses.
In an effort to bring the legislative framework more in line with that for other legal service businesses the consultation, which is open until 3 August, aims to make it easier for ‘alternative business structures’ (ABSs) to enter the market.
Prior to the Legal Services Act of 2007, lawyers in England and Wales could only practice as sole trader solicitors or in partnership with other solicitors or as employees providing legal services to their employer. The Act, nick-named Tesco Law, allowed ABSs to enter the market with non-lawyers in professional management or ownership roles.
The Government’s new consultation document sets out ways to make it easier still for businesses such as supermarkets and estate agents etc. to offer legal services such as conveyancing, probate and litigation.
Around 600 businesses have been licensed to provide reserved legal activities since acceptance of the ABS under the 2007 Act. A wide mix of businesses have become ABSs including trade unions, accountancy firms and local authorities. According to the Law Society Gazette the 600 licensed ABSs collectively account for £2.66bn in turnover.
Select Legal Systems Limited designed its leading legal practice management system, LAWFUSION, specifically for law firms to help them compete in an increasingly complex and competitive marketplace. Since the Act was passed a number of ABSs have enquired about and bought LAWFUSION. Steve Dixon, Owner and Development Director of Select Legal Systems Limited said, “Law firms must make sure they do not get left behind as the marketplace becomes even more competitive. Partners must make sure their firms are equipped with the best legal software available.”