Revealed: niche property firm becomes newest ABS

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By Legal Futures

25 May 2012

Horn: additional flexibility

A niche property law firm in Oxfordshire has become the sixth alternative business structure (ABS) to be licensed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Plainlaw – which specialises in property, housing and construction law – has three partners, senior partner Philip Horn, Michael Horn and a corporate entity, Ltd.

Philip Horn – who is both head of legal practice and of finance and administration – said becoming an ABS gives the firm “additional flexibility in terms of structuring our business going forward. Our interest in the concept of ABS is driven more by the potential it offers us for the future, than by our current circumstances, where we are not intending any immediate change”.

He said Plainlaw has “consistently acted quickly to exploit innovations in the legal sector which allow us to operate as efficiently as possible in providing our clients with excellent service”, being an early adopter of LLP status and also one of the first firms to achieve the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme accreditation.

He continued: “Our focus will remain on providing a City of London-style real estate service but at provincial fee rates. We have developed a niche in providing an on-demand real estate support service to other leading law firms, many of whom will themselves be considering the benefits of converting to ABS status.”

Plainlaw’s ABS licence has some conditions. It states that the sole purpose of Ltd is to hold an interest in the ABS, “allowing for non-lawyer involvement, and provide non-legal services to that body only”.

The licence also requires that any remuneration or profit share paid by the ABS for the services of Philip Horn must be paid to him directly and not through

Further, Philip Horn must not provide any legal service through Ltd, and the company “must not be held out to the public as providing any type of legal services”.

The most recent edition of the Legal500 said Plainlaw solicitors has “outstanding” niche property expertise, adding: “Philip Horn is ‘one of the best conveyancing lawyers in the UK’. New clients include Capcom and Cogent Communications.” The firm has two additional fee-earners.

The Chambers Directory write-up said Mr Horn is “‘knowledgeable, expert and second to none for commercial property’. He is noted for his commercial conveyancing expertise”.

He trained at City firm Simmons & Simmons and subsequently worked for Clyde & Co and Manches before founding Plainlaw in 2003. Clients include Black & Decker, FTSE 250 Lloyd’s insurer Catlin Group, Thames Valley property company Comland plc, Norwegian bottled water company Isklar, and Fairfax Media, the largest media company in Australia.

It is the third small firm to be licensed as an ABS after Lawbridge and John Welch & Stammers. Also licensed are Co-operative Legal Services, Russell Jones & Walker and NewLaw Solicitors.


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