The Legal Services Act Goes Into Effect in the UK

October 7th, 2011

From the BBC:

Legislation and regulation has restricted the management, ownership and financing of firms providing legal services for hundreds of years.

Under new trading bodies, known as Alternative Business Structures (ABS), lawyers will be able to work in mixed-practices offering financial, legal and other advice, or be based at different kinds of businesses.

The first of the new legal businesses will be conveyancer-led, covering services such as property law and probate.

Solicitors will not be able to participate in the new arrangements until licensing by the Solicitors Regulation Authority takes place. Currently, solicitors chambers are owned by the lawyers themselves under partnerships.

The changes could also see barristers, who are currently self-employed, eventually form partnerships themselves, or take on individual roles within the new legal businesses, the Bar Standards Board says.

The QualitySolicitors.Com grouping said it could wipe out good quality, local legal advice.

Meanwhile, Clive Sutton, of the Solicitors Sole Practitioners Group, urged the government to reconsider the “untried and untested innovation” which he said had only previously been adopted by two states in Australia.

He said: “The government seem unconcerned that the introduction of Alternative Business Structures puts at risk the independence of legal advice, via the profit interests of commercial owners.”

Despite the title Tesco Law, the supermarket has said it has “no current plans to offer legal services”. But the Co-operative was among the first stores to say it was interested in offering a legal business.

Similar legislation was passed in Scotland in October 2010 when MSPs at Holyrood backed its Legal Services Bill.