Two south-east conveyancing businesses owned by estate agents have become the newest alternative business structure (ABS).
Legal Business Property Lawyers (LBPL) in Brentwood has been a recognised body for some three years, trading under a Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) licence.
LBPL uses what it calls ‘Open File’ to speed up transaction times – an initiative which involves gathering information early in the conveyancing process. “Experience shows that the first four weeks on average of any agreed sale or purchase is spent obtaining information and completing forms – all of this can be started before a sale is even agreed,” it explained.
Director and licensed conveyancer Alina Baker, who is the ABS’s head of finance and administration, said LBPL had applied to become an ABS because two of its directors were estate agents and as a CLC recognised body it had no choice but to convert in time.
Ms Baker’s fellow director and licensed conveyancer, Joanne Hinton, LBPL’s head of legal practice, said a decision on future investment plans would rest with the company’s owners. “Really all we could do is try to get a bit bigger which we will plan to try and do, depending on the market, obviously,” she said.
She said the ABS application process had been “easy” and straightforward: “It only took me a couple of hours to sort the format and send it off and everything else was done by the CLC.” She added it was “quite nice to be one of the first to have got through” the process.
As a recognised body, the business was well known to the CLC, Ms Baker pointed out. “I think it would have been more pressure if we were a new company and started from scratch but obviously because we were recognised a lot of the form had already been completed and dealt with, so it was just satisfying them in relation to being owned by an estate agent.”
Meanwhile, independent estate agency Vickery & Co, which has offices in Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire, has also been granted an ABS licence by the CLC after converting from being a recognised body.
Vickery & Co declined to comment when contacted by Legal Futures, on the basis that the ABS licence was merely a procedural change from recognised body status and that the company was continuing to operate “business as usual”.
The CLC has now licensed 12 ABSs and the Solicitors Regulation Authority 39 (five of which are within the Irwin Mitchell group).