Leading accountancy firm Kingston Smith has been granted a wide range of waivers from Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) rules as part of its groundbreaking transfer of alternative business structure regulator.
It has been exempted from the SRA’s requirements around professional indemnity insurance on the basis of the cover the whole firm already has in place, while only those partners either running the legal business or running the firm need to be subject to the regulator’s approval.
A waiver from the demands of the separate business rule has been put in place in relation to five other businesses Kingston Smith has: HR Insight, Kingston Smith Barlevi (its Los Angeles office), Kingston Smith Trust Corporation, Devonshire Corporate Services and Kingston Smith Corporate Finance.
The non-ABS part of Kingston Smith does not have to refer to SRA regulation on notepaper under a further waiver, while the need for compliance with the training regulations for the 2014 practising year has also been shelved.
The ABS was previously regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, but that only currently has the power to authorise ABSs to undertake one of the six reserved legal activites, namely probate.
Meanwhile, fast-growing Southport firm Fletchers – which specialises in clinical negligence and serious injury work – has become an ABS, mainly to allow the appointment of non-solicitor directors.
Chief executive Ed Fletcher said becoming an ABS was “an essential step” to ensure the firm achieves its goal of reaching the top 100.
Established in 1987, Fletchers claims to handle 10% of all clinical negligence and around one in three motorcycle accidents, leading to a £12m turnover and head count of 280. Patient Claim Line is its consumer-facing brand, while it recently launched the Medical Law Network panel to work with other clinical negligence firms to compete with the biggest firms.
Mr Fletcher said: “Being an ABS means we can bring in top talent from other sectors and further our leadership of the medical negligence sector.
“Bringing in talent from different industries helps to increase the breadth of our business experience, which in turn leads to a competitive advantage. Innovation in the legal sector is crucial to success and we aim to remain at the forefront of the industry by continuing to break down traditional barriers.”
Another fast-growing personal injury ABS, Manchester’s Express Solicitors, has unveiled strong results for the 2014-15 financial year, with turnover up 15% to just over £10m.
Its caseloads grow to 6,612 during a year that saw it acquire Ashfields Solicitors’ claimant book following a £10m refinancing package from RBS Corporate. Express now has 177 staff, including 70 fee-earners and 16 partners.
Finally, ABS fever is running high at Nottingham-based debt recovery firm Legal Recoveries & Collections (LR&C), which as we reported in June  has received an ABS licence that takes effect on 1 October so that it can bring litigation in-house. Up to now the company has used solicitors Sharp Young & Pearce for court work.
The company has a countdown to the big day on its website and is warning clients that as it is planning to replace Sharp Young on the court record, clients must consent prior to 1 October if it wants LR&C to continue acting. It has also clarified that Sharp Young will still be instructed on defended cases.