ABSs top 300 mark with latest licencees demonstrating variety of new legal breed

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16 April 2014

Caan: virtual firm associated with his equity house receives ABS licence

The number of alternative business structures (ABSs) has passed 300, with a major international business support services company with offices around the world among the latest to achieve the status.

A multi-disciplinary business services company, a virtual law firm associated with entrepreneur James Caan and a fast-growing Manchester personal injury practice have also been awarded licences.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) currently has 267 ABSs listed on its register, while the Council for Licensed Conveyancers has a further 41, making 308 in all.

Surrey-based Dixcart Legal Limited is part of the independent Dixcart Group, which says it “has been providing professional expertise to organisations and individuals for over 40 years”.

It has a total of 10 offices in Cyprus, Guernsey, Ireland, Isle of Man, Madeira, Malta, South Africa, St Kitts & Nevis, Switzerland and the UK.

Dixcart originally started as a trust company and continues to offer wealth management services. Other services include the incorporation and management of companies, fund administration and e-gaming. Dixcart also operates a number of business centres, offering serviced offices, and provides accounting and IT support.

The ABS was granted a licence by the SRA, effective from 1 May. Its head of legal practice and of finance and administration is solicitor Melanie Smith, a partner at three-partner commercial firm Morgan Russell Solicitors LLP. The firm operates from Dixcart International’s headquarters in Esher.

Dixcart, which also has an air marine services department that helps high net-worth individuals register their yachts, ships and aircraft, shuns publicity. Attempts by Legal Futures to learn more about plans for the ABS were unsuccessful.

Bridget Carman, Dixcart’s marketing manager, who is also listed among Morgan Russell’s staff, said it was “company policy” not to speak about its activity, explaining: “Because we deal with a lot of clients on very confidential matters and they don’t really want our firm to be in the press all of the time.”

The firm adopted a blanket policy of no comment so “people don’t accidentally give information that they shouldn’t”, she said.

The SRA granted Dixcart Legal a waiver under the separate business rule.

In other ABS news, Qdos Consulting has received a licence. A multi-disciplinary operation with 70 staff based in Leicestershire, it provides business compliance and contractor insurance services, as well as advice on HR, employment law, health and safety, and tax, and offers IT training.

The licence was granted with a waiver of the separate business rule but subject to a host of conditions governing the transfer of matters from Qdos Consulting to Qdos Legal Services Ltd. The firm’s head of legal practice is Jayne Eggington, who joined Qdos two years ago from a senior role at a local authority.

Meanwhile, Excello Law, the virtual firm that linked up last year with Hamilton Bradshaw, the private equity house founded by celebrity investor James Caan, has become an ABS.

Managing director George Bisnought said the licence would “allow us to promote non-lawyers like Jon Harrison to our board to further enhance the mix of skills and experience of the executive team”. Mr Harrison, formerly a partner of PwC and a member of firm’s advisory team, has been named Excello’s financial director.

Separately, 13-partner Manchester personal injury law firm Express Solicitors has become an ABS. As a legal disciplinary practice with a non-lawyer partner – operations partner, Liam Wynne – Express had to become an ABS.

Managing partner James Maxey said the ABS would “allow us to bring qualified non-legal professionals into the fold to help us further improve the quality of our services and it also makes external investment a possibility in the future.”

The firm announced bold expansion plans in 2012, involving a £3m cash injection. Mr Maxey said the firm last year reported a 35% increase in fee income to £7.2m.

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