Accountants become ABS to offer clients complete service

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By Legal Futures

15 July 2013

Accountants: Brookson now has the credibility of a firm of solicitors

An accountancy firm for contractors, freelancers and self-employed professionals has launched its own law firm as the “missing piece in the client service jigsaw”.

Brookson Ltd – based in Warrington – has been granted an alternative business structure (ABS) licence for Brookson Legal Services and becomes only the second firm of accountants to be licensed.

Its head of legal, Carl Henning, said the move was to provide its white-collar clients with employment law advice initially and then a range of other services.

Mr Henning left north-west firm DWF in 2009 and established Brunel Law as a sole practitioner, practising employment and commercial law.

Brookson Ltd partnered with Brunel Law to offer its contractor, freelance and self-employed clients legal advice and Mr Henning began talks with Brookson 18 months ago about the possibility of forming an ABS.

Brunel has now been subsumed into Brookson Legal Services, with Mr Henning also holding the position of head of compliance within the Brookson group structure – which includes insurance services, financial services, accountancy and business administration divisions.

Mr Henning said: “Brookson was covering 99% of its contractor practice, but the legal side was the missing piece of the jigsaw.

“The feedback we were getting from clients was they wanted wills and probate services. ABS gives us the ability to provide that advice with the credibility of a firm of solicitors.

“We wanted to provide a fully rounded services to customers and there were certain things that we were looking to outsource to other firms. But the key driver for ABS was the ability to do this in-house and control the client experience.”

Brookson has recently announced a partnership with Irwin Mitchell, with the national firm operating its new legal advice helpline to support Brookson clients in everything from intellectual property to debt recovery.

However, Mr Henning said this is only a “temporary measure” until Brookson Legal Services grows into a firm that is able to run the helpline in-house.

He said: “Where Irwin Mitchell fits in is that, whilst we have got our ABS licence and are recruiting to service that demand, we do still have customers that have needs to fulfil, so we are outsourcing some of the services, such as wills and probate.

“It is on an as-required basis. Customers pay us a fee and we sub-contract Irwin Mitchell, paying them for the time they take. They also provide the legal helpline because of their depth of expertise, which we don’t yet have.”

Brookson Legal Services currently has one solicitor (Mr Henning) and six paralegals. It aims to double to at least two qualified lawyers, one trainee and 12 paralegals in the next 12 months.

The ambition is to turnover £500,000 in the first year and grow year-on-year. That would represent a sizeable 15% of overall group turnover, according to Mr Henning.

Brookson Legal Services follows accountants Price bailey into the legal sector after the SRA approved Price Bailey Legal Services as an ABS in April.

Price Bailey managing director Peter Gillman said the firm would not be entering the wider legal market yet and Mr Henning has a similar strategy.

He said: “At the moment key focus is to complement the services we offer, rather than get market share in terms of turnover and profit. But I do think ABSs that come out of non-legal firms will flourish because they understand their customers and work in niche areas.

“At Brookson we work with a certain type of client and can tailor and commoditise our advice more effectively. Most law firms are generic and bigger firms may target their services, but without understanding the sector their clients are working in.

“Our ABS is not going to be all things to all men, but our customers won’t want all the legal services on a regular basis that the likes of Irwin Mitchell can provide. It is going to be a lot more focused rather than go for the same breadth of service.”


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