Communications giant hands over ABS to listed law firm

BT: DWF outsourcing deal

Communications giant BT has handed over ownership of its alternative business structure (ABS) to listed law firm DWF in addition to its recently announced strategic partnership, it has emerged.

Documents filed at Companies House show that BT Law is now part of DWF Connected Services, with DWF chief executive Andrew Leaitherland and chief financial officer Chris Stefani its new directors.

BT obtained an ABS licence in 2013 and the firm used BT’s in-house team of over 70 legal and support staff to provide services to external clients, particularly those with large vehicle fleets.

In July, BT announced a five-year partnership with DWF to provide legal support for claims and real estate matters, with staff transferring from BT’s in-house legal teams to DWF, and we reported in September that the future of BT Law was under review.

BT Law’s recently published accounts – for the year to 31 March 2019 – showed that turnover increased 7% to £448,746 and profit before tax jumped 26% to £149,596. It had no employees as all were employed by BT.

A BT spokesman said: “Following on from the appointment of DWF as a strategic legal partner earlier this year, we are continuing to transform and simplify the way we work across BT.

“The acquisition of BT Law by DWF is an exciting step forward for both businesses, who will continue to deliver outstanding services.”

A DWF spokesman added: “This is a natural step to take for both DWF and BT following our strategic partnership. It will ensure continuity of service for all of BT Law’s clients, many of whom are also existing DWF clients.”

Meanwhile, the Italy-based international law firm Giambrone has set up an ABS licensed by the Bar Standards Board (BSB), Legal Futures can reveal.

The firm has declined to explain the move until it holds a formal launch of Giambrone & Partners LLP, which was only incorporated on 31 May 2019.

Its UK practice is currently held by Giambrone Europe LLP, which is not regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA); rather, according to the firm’s website, it is a European exempt practice under SRA rules.

This applies to a practice which has its main place of business and is regulated in another EU country that does not carry on reserved legal activities and whose ultimate beneficial owners do not include any practising lawyers of England and Wales.

The head of legal practice of the new ABS is Vincenzo Senatore, a dual qualified avvocato and solicitor, and senior associate, who splits his time between the London and Milan offices.

The head of finance and administration is Brendan Dine, a marketing specialist who is head of client services and director of international operations in the London office.

The BSB also lists Daniel Theron, an associate in Giambrone’s Glasgow office, as a manager of the practice.

The BSB currently regulates only 12 ABSs.

In 2015, the High Court found that Giambrone was under a duty to warn British and Irish property investors of the risks of investing in a part of Italy associated with organised crime.

The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of Mr Justice Foskett, and the Supreme Court refused to hear a second appeal.

Earlier this year, Giambrone’s insurer was ordered to pay £3m in costs to the victims after the lawyers failed to pay up.

In 2013, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal ordered the SRA to withdraw the name of managing partner Gabriele Giambrone from its Register of European Lawyers after finding he and two colleagues committed a host of accounting irregularities while acting for clients in overseas property deals.

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