Irwin Mitchell has today become the largest law firm to become an alternative business structure (ABS) and also received the first ‘multiple’ licences.
In April 2011 the firm became the first to state its intention  to seek external capital, although the method and amount have yet to be announced.
It has been granted five licences covering a range of businesses within its group structure: Irwin Mitchell LLP, Irwin Mitchell Trustees Limited, Irwin Mitchell Trust Corporation Limited, Ascent Collections Limited – which offers field agency and debt collection services – and Coris UK Limited, which provides international assistance and insurance claims handling services.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has also approved the appointments of Glyn Barker, the former vice-chairman UK of PricewaterhouseCoopers, as chairman of Irwin Mitchell’s parent company, IMCO Holdings Ltd, and Mel Egglenton as a second non-executive director and chair of the company’s audit committee, a role he previously held with KPMG.
Group chief executive John Pickering said: “It’s a very significant day for us, an important milestone which positions us well to take advantage of the opportunities which we think will arise from the changing legal landscape. We can now push on with our plans for growing the business. Conversion to ABS status sends a clear signal that we intend to move forward with our strategy.
“We are also pleased to be the first multi-licensed ABS, which reflects the breadth of our offering to clients. Our group structure has been built with that strength of diversity in mind and we believe it puts us in a very strong position in the changing legal sector.”
Irwin Mitchell, which recently reported a 6.8% increase in turnover to £183.7m for the financial year 2011/12, has 60 solicitor members of LLP, five non-solicitor members, 75 salaried partners, and 20 non-solicitor directors and associate directors. It employs over 2,200 people in seven offices in England, and owns the Spanish legal practice Irwin Mitchell Abogados, which has offices in Madrid and Malaga.
SRA chief executive Antony Townsend said: “Our authorisation system has been built to be flexible enough to deal with a range of organisations with hugely varying corporate structures and robust enough to apply the same stringent suitability criteria by which traditional firms are judged. Irwin Mitchell’s application was different to other applications because of the number of licences involved.
“The systems we have in place to authorise ABSs are thorough, and we are continuing to make improvements to the process as we gain further experience.”