An East Midlands firm of independent financial advisers (IFA) is building a law firm from scratch to provide a one-stop shop for clients after obtaining an alternative business structure (ABS) licence.
Leicester-based Bobby Dhanjal Wealth Management  (BDWM) received Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) approval for Bobby Dhanjal Legal Services Limited (BDLS), whose licence begins on 1 March and covers the full range of reserved legal activities.
It is one of the latest crop of ABSs, bringing the total approved by the SRA to 81.
BDLS’s head of legal practice and of finance and administration is Hardeep Kaur Mann, an assistant solicitor at Rich & Carr Freer Bouskell Solicitors, who specialises in commercial litigation and employment law. Ms Mann is currently working out her notice at the firm.
The ABS is also recruiting lawyers in commercial property and wills and probate to head updepartments, and has plans to take on trainee solicitors.
Mr Dhanjal, who founded BDWM three years ago and now has 19 staff, stressed the law firm would operate as a separate entity. It will be based in the centre of Leicester, while BDWM has premises on the outskirts of the city.
He said he was excited to be running an ABS because it would help bring a business dimension to legal practice: “The beauty of ABS is that it brings solicitors to that next level; it gives them a business sense, because I think solicitors have always been reactive rather than proactive and we want to give a proactive side to our legal services.”
The SRA had emphasised the importance of keeping the businesses separate during the application process but this also suited BDWM, he said. “If our wealth management clients wish to move across to the law firm, that’s fine, but we won’t be forcing anybody into taking that step. But if they want the one-stop service, we can keep the prices low and offer the same level of service, so clients will benefit from that.”
BDLS had no immediate plans to seek external investment. “This is all going to be funded out of my pocket – and it has cost me £50,000 already and I’m sure there is going to be more,” he said.
Mr Dhanjal reported that BDLS would refer non-commercial work to local law firms. “We want more of a commercial feel to the legal business rather than, say, residential conveyancing where mortgage advisers are just passing leads over. We don't want to do that.”
He said the ABS was more than “a money-making exercise”. He had “made it clear to the solicitors who will be working here that while we are here to make a profit, we are not here to be greedy and we want to invest back in people”. He was committed to taking on trainee solicitors who would also be trained as “business development managers” and help secure legal work from local businesses for the BDLS lawyers.
“Hopefully we can create some decent solicitors [with business acumen] who will… learn how to create a proper business and learn not to be greedy and to look after their clients and respect their clients,” he said.