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LSB gives blessing to Bar Council for ABS licensing

BSB hope to 'increase choice and provide lasting benefits for consumers'

19 May 2016

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The Legal Services Board (LSB) has recommended to the Lord Chancellor that the Bar Council becomes a licensing authority for alternative business structures (ABS).

Should the recommendation be accepted, the Bar Council will be given the authority to license ABS entities providing reserved legal activities, such as right of audience; conduct of litigation; reserved instrument activities; probate; and the administration of oaths.

The council's new authority will be delegated to the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

The BSB’s regulated community consists of approximately 12,700 self-employed barristers and 2,800 practising employed barristers.

The barrister regulator’s application to become a licensing authority is part of a wider programme of reform including a major revision of its handbook, moving to an outcomes focussed approach to regulation, and the introduction of non-ABS entity regulation.

The BSB has been able to authorise non-ABS entities since April 2015. Approval from the super regulator marks the final step in the BSB's development as an entity regulator.

Should the Lord Chancellor accept the recommendation, the BSB will join the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Council for Licences Conveyancers, the Intellectual Property Regulation Board, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in being able to authorise non-lawyer owned law firms.

The super regulator has also recommended the Bar Council be designated as a licensing authority for the provision of immigration advice and services.

The LSB's chairman, Sir Michael Pitt, said: 'ABS are a valuable contributor to the innovation and increase in consumer choice that we wish to see across the whole legal services sector.

'We are therefore delighted to be recommending to the Lord Chancellor that the Bar Council becomes a licensing authority for ABS.'

BSB Director of Regulatory Policy Ewen MacLeod welcomed the news: 'We want to permit innovation in the legal services market, which we hope will increase choice and provide other lasting benefits for consumers.'

The Director of Policy at the Bar Council, Philip Robertson, said: 'Today’s announcement paves the way for barristers who wish to do so to practise in BSB-regulated ABSs. Giving barristers more freedom of choice as to how they provide legal services supports innovation and widens the range of options available to the consumer.'

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