The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has promised to provide “lighter weight and less costly” regulation than its rivals as it applied to become a regulator of alternative business structures last week.
The regulator said in its application to the Legal Services Board that “many potential entities” wanted to “exploit the greater flexibility” that operating as an ABS could provide.
The BSB said that if it was permitted to join the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Council for Licensed Conveyancers as a regulator of ABSs, it would help ensure that there were no potential specialist firms which could not find an “appropriate regulator”.
The BSB said its aim was to provide a regulatory regime suited to the “efficient and cost-effective regulation of entities whose permitted range of services is broadly the same as those permitted to the self-employed Bar and whose risks and regulatory requirements are similar”.
Wherever possible, the regulator said it had sought to ensure that the licensing arrangements were consistent with those for BSB-regulated individuals.
“We are keen to regulate a range of entities to ensure that the market in legal services is strong and vibrant, with a variety of models, which allow the profession to innovate in terms of the structure used to deliver legal services and how those legal services are provided.
“We think that this will help to ensure that the legal profession remains vital and dynamic, and is sensitive to the needs of clients.”
However, the BSB repeated its position that there was little advantage in it “establishing a regulatory regime which simply replicates that of the SRA or other licensing authorities”.
A BSB spokesman commented: “We are pleased to have submitted our application to the LSB to become a licensing authority for alternative business structures.
“We see this is an important step in giving barristers greater flexibility in the way that they provide their services and in opening up the legal services market to greater choice for consumers. We look forward to hearing back from the LSB about our application in due course.”
The BSB announced the names of the first firms it is regulating at the end of last month. Among them was Elderflower Legal, a law firm set up by Mark Johnson, a solicitor and former partner at Geldards, but not an advocate.