ABS licence for top building society and estate agency

Conveyancing: rigorous ABS process

A volume conveyancing business owned by Britain’s fourth largest building society is targeting a move into other areas of legal services after receiving its alternative business structure (ABS) licence.

Conveyancing Direct, part of the Connells estate agency group, which became 100% owned by Skipton Building Society in 2010, was one of the four to be granted licences by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) in the last week.

The others were Runnett & Co, Advantage Property Lawyers (APL) in Leeds, and East Midlands-based conveyancers Red Legal. The CLC has now licensed 11 ABSs, compared to 31 by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

A Connells spokesperson said the company saw the ABS as “an important part of their business growth”.

Andrew Palmer, managing director of Conveyancing Direct Property Lawyers, told Legal Futures: “We decided to apply for the ABS licence because it gives Conveyancing Direct more scope as a law firm to grow into other areas of legal services. We are delighted that approval has now been granted and believe the license will support our plans for future growth.”

Mr Palmer would not go into detail about future plans, which were “yet to be finalised”. But he said the new licence would “support the growth of the business over the next two to three years”.

On the CLC application process, he said the company was “pleased to be at the end” of it. “As we expected, it was very thorough and rigorous process to apply for the licence.”

Runnett & Co was bought by online conveyancing business In-Deed in May this year. Headquartered in Bridgend but with a strong London presence which was recently rebranded as Lewis & Thomas, Runnett & Co is among the top 10 conveyancing firms in England and Wales as measured by returns to the Land Registry.

The move marked a change in strategy by In-Deed away from a direct-to-consumer model and instead targeting estate agent-distributed work.

APL’s publicity materials say the business is consistently ranked in the top 50 UK firms on volumes and regularly completes over 200 sale and purchase transactions each month. It has been trading for nearly four years. Hilary Harrison, APL’s financial controller and its head of finance and administration, said the reason for applying was “because we have a mixture of directors, not all licensed conveyancers”.

APL’s future plans are to expand but it will not be seeking external investment. “We believe we can do without it. We have a good financial background and we don’t want to expand too fast, so we would hope that we can fund it ourselves.”

Ms Harrison said the application process “has taken quite a long time and we’ve had to chase it up a couple of times. But apart from completing all the forms and jumping through all the hoops, it seemed fairly straightforward”.

Residential conveyancing practice Red Legal has offices in Northampton, Milton Keynes, Leicester and Bedford. Director and co-owner Martin Crighton, formerly a partner and head of conveyancing at Burroughs Day Solicitors and a director of Tollers, declined to discuss its ABS licence.



    Readers Comments

  • Another day, another new ABS! I would be interested to see the ‘rigorous’ process they have been subjected to. Has there been an example of a failure to procure a license yet?

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