Court agency business becomes ABS

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By Legal Futures

1 July 2013

Court agency firm: clients wanted comfort of dealing with an SRA-regulated business

A business that provides court agency and other outsourced services has become an alternative business structure (ABS) in order to meet the demand of its clients.

Ashley Taylors in East Sussex is the first business of its type to become an ABS, and the latest legal services provider to use the status to enter into regulation.

The agency, which started life in 1980, employs around 100 staff, of whom 81 are qualified lawyers. It is split into two divisions, with a county court agency, progressing lower court matters for large law firms, and an outsourced litigation support arm dealing with work such as personal injury evidence and reports, witness statements and landlord and tenant casework.

Mr Taylor said the agency, which has a number of “household insurance names” amongst its clients, “keeps a low profile” and had not needed to be regulated up to this point.

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However, with many of its clients dealing with the UK’s major financial institutions, including big banks, Mr Taylor said they “wanted the comfort of dealing with a firm regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority”.

For Ashley Taylors, the ABS means they will now be able to issue proceedings that they had previously just prepared, on behalf of clients – meaning one less “link in the chain”, a faster process and financial benefits too.

The agency has had resisted offers to “come in-house” and Mr Taylor said he has “no concerns” about its workload being cut in the difficult climate in the legal sector.

He said: “I am not concerned about firms taking their outsourcing work in-house. Insurers have worked out that they are better off not buying a firm and bringing it in-house. Unless it is a very large firm and it makes it worthwhile, it can cost quite a lot to do that.

“We have a system set-up with our clients and come to workable fees. Some of our clients have done it or are in the process of doing it, but have said to us that it will create other work they’ll send to us.”

Mr Taylor said there was “no intention” to change direction and convert to a solicitors’ firm.

He added: “ABS gives us that added level of security and makes us more attractive to financial institutions; there’s no difference operationally.”

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