The Bar Standards Board expects to begin licensing alternative business structures imminently, saying long-awaited approval could be granted in the next few weeks.
In its business plan for 2017/2018 – due to be published this week – the regulator will state: ‘We expect to be able to licence ABSs that are jointly owned and managed by both lawyers and non-lawyers in April 2017.’
The BSB is awaiting final parliamentary sign off under the Legal Services Act and the Gazette understands this is imminent.
However, the regulator has struggled to meet its predictions before. In March last year, the Gazette reported that the BSB expected to be licensing ABSs in October that year. It had previously predicted dates as early as 2014.
Also revealed in the business plan is a slight reduction in the BSB’s 2017/2018 budget. For 2017/2018 the budget is £7.8m – down from £8.04m in 2016/17.
The regulator attributed the fall to an expected drop in income from BCAT and BPTC training courses on the assumption that a new training regime, approved last week, will lead to students deferring enrolment.
In addition, the BSB said it is seeking approval under Section 69 of the Legal Services Act that would allow it to intervene into legal practices.
The BSB said: ‘We are also seeking additional powers in relation to those we regulate already. If approved the order will grant us new powers to intervene into legal practices where it is necessary for us to do so in order to protect clients.’
However, it said this would be a ‘rare occurrence’ and used as a ‘last resort’.
The regulator will also seek to warn the public of the differences between barristers and paid McKenzie friends – and to work closely with solicitors on the issue. ‘We will seek to encourage the profession to cooperate more closely with solicitors and other legal professionals where that may offer advantages for the public,’ the business plan states.