BSB takes on ABS licensing

England’s legal profession took another leap towards fusion yesterday when the body that regulates barristers began licensing legal services businesses that include solicitor and non-lawyer partners.

The move will put the Bar Standards Board, the barristers’ watchdog in England and Wales, on par with the body that regulates solicitors. The Solicitors Regulation Authority has for several years been licensing alternative business structures, which have included solicitors, barristers and non-lawyers.

For the past two years, the BSB itself has been able to regulate “entities” that are owned by barristers and solicitors. Yesterday’s move means it will now be able to regulate ABSs that include non-lawyers.

The BSB said it was issues an updated version of its rules handbook, which sets out the position regarding ABS licensing.

“Although we are cautious about the number of ABSs that may choose to be regulated by us, we believe this development encourages further innovation in the provision of legal services,” said Oliver Hanmer, the board’s director of regulatory assurance.

“Being a specialist in regulating advocacy-based services, our announcement today allows barristers and other lawyers to partner with other business professionals to bring new skills and fresh perspectives to this sector of the market.”

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