Exclusive: now it’s Stobart Solicitors as well after SRA grants ABS licence


Howarth: one-stop shop

Famous logistics company Stobart Group now has a law firm to sit alongside its direct access barrister service, Legal Futures can reveal.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has granted an alternative business structure (ABS) licence to One Legal Ltd, which Trevor Howarth, Stobart Group’s legal director and the founder of Stobart Barristers, confirmed was set up by the company.

He described having a law firm as the “last piece of the jigsaw”, with Stobart Barristers, Stobart Claims Management Ltd by the Ministry of Justice’s claims management regulation unit, and an insurance broker arm licensed by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Mr Howarth declined to go into details about the plans for the ABS – saying there would be “quite a large announcement” shortly – but explained that Stobarts could now provide a one-stop shop for claims: it can broker the insurance, then handle the claim, deal with the litigation and provide an advocate.

He emphasised the importance of utilising a strong brand such as the one Stobarts has through its trucks, pointing to a brand at the time best known as a record label, Virgin, moving into airlines as an example of the possibilities of brand extension.

Mr Howarth would not be drawn on the role the ABS could play in any bid Stobarts might make for a new-style criminal legal aid contract, which he hinted in May was distinctly possible. The prospect of this has been held up by opponents of the government’s plans as demonstrating what is wrong with price competitive tendering and fee cuts. “Truck off Grayling” has become a popular slogan.

However, Mr Howarth said the publicity had enabled Stobart Barristers to make more progress in its first year than he had anticipated. Referring to Criminal Bar Association chairman Michael Turner QC, he said: “I’m grateful for Mr Turner’s uplifting profile.”

Opponents have also highlighted a civil trial for contempt of court that Mr Howarth and a colleague are facing. Mr Howarth said an appeal against the decision to commit them for trial would be heard in November. He confirmed that he had passed the SRA’s suitability test.

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