ABS brings non-legal services in-house as “unique selling point in crowded market”


Birchall: aims to keep clients after legal work concluded

A law firm has relaunched itself as a multi-disciplinary alternative business structure (ABS), offering corporate clients legal, accountancy, and business advisory services, with human resources advice set to follow.

Liverpool-based Smooth Commercial Law was given its ABS licence by the Solicitors Regulation Authority at the end of last month, effective immediately.

Since the beginning of this year, the firm has been operating as Smooth Law.

Directors include chartered accountant Louise Burns-Lunt – the head of finance and administration – and business specialist Paul McKittrick.

Both previously worked at Liverpool and Kirby law firm Canter Levin & Berg, which became an ABS at the beginning of 2013 in order to elevate Ms Burns-Lunt to non-lawyer partner.

The head of legal practice, solicitor partner Scott Birchall, was formerly a solicitor at Manchester firm Pannone, part of Slater and Gordon.

Mr Birchall told Legal Futures that being able to offer SMEs more than legal services was a “unique selling point” for the ABS in a crowded legal marketplace.

The status meant the firm was “not bound by traditional restrictions – without being an ABS, we wouldn’t be able to provide those other services.”

He added: “We appreciate that for any company the legal aspect is just one part of it. They also need accountancy services, financial services, but also day-to-day general business advice.

“We see the way the industry is going and a law firm has to move with the times. It helps the [SME] if they can deal with all aspects of their legal, accountancy and consultancy needs under one roof as opposed to going to three separate firms.”

He said the ABS was actively considering adding human resources to its offering, so as to enable the firm “to deal with that side of the business before it becomes a legal issue”. Expanding services to further areas would be “guided by the wants and desires of the client”.

He said providing a range of services fitted with his philosophy that the service should not end with legal. “We asked the question: ‘What happens if the client gets a good win; what does the client need?'”

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