Law firm ABS aims to take on new entrants in their own backyards

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By Legal Futures

5 April 2013

Stothard: actively considering external investment

A newly licensed alternative business structure (ABS) is going on the offensive after completing a three-year restructuring plan.

Tees Solicitors chief executive Paul Stothard said the 29-partner firm now plans to take on new entrants to the legal services market by moving into their sectors and attracting external investment.

The firm – with 200 staff in six offices across the northern home counties – recorded £12.5m revenue in 2012 from the legal side and a further £1m from its financial services business.

Mr Stothard said the next move is to create a ‘Tees’ umbrella and begin to expand into other industries.

He said: “Thanks to ABS we now have the capacity to develop a number of facets should we wish. We have been concentrating on getting the legal side up to size to allow us to attract external investment. Others can come into our sector and take revenue – so why not the other way around?”

Mr Stothard – an accountant who was formerly CEO at national firm Shoosmiths – said Tees has undergone a “fundamental restructure” into a firm with a corporate-style structure, including small mergers and acquisitions and a fully outsourced cloud IT solution for improved efficiency.

He said that the move has positioned the firm so that it is able to “actively consider” external investment.

Professor Stephen Mayson, who sits on the board as a non-executive director has been a “tremendous help in the strategic running of the business”, added Mr Stothard.

At the other end of the scale, the latest round of ABS approvals included niche firm ABC Food Law, made up of husband and wife team Andrew and Sharon Bowles.

ABS status has enabled Dr Bowles, a qualified food law trainer and current law student, to become a director alongside his qualified solicitor wife.

With the legal issues around the production and consumer information applied to the food industry hitting the headlines, ABC Food Law’s work is especially topical, explained Mr Bowles.

He said the firm was unlike a lot of the other ABSs, in that it wasn’t aiming for external investment, but focusing on how the structure could benefit the firm’s entrepreneurial approach to law.

He said: “We are a very small niche firm, but are taking advantage of ABS in order to be able to provide services to the food industry, to research and scientific work, and to local authorities.”

Mr Bowles said his background in industry and enforcement works with Mrs Bowles’s legal expertise in food law to assist local authorities in enforcement litigation.

He explained: “We can provide full litigation for environmental health and trading standards officers who maybe don’t have the in-house expertise readily available – and we can do so in a cost-effective way because we are already familiar with the legislation.”

The firm is based on a research park in Norfolk and is on hand to offer scientists the full range of legal requirements to develop their systems.

He added: “We can also provide the full range of services to anyone from a kebab shop to a food manufacturing plant to help them understand the law around imported food and dealing with contaminants, animal feed and hygiene, for example.”

Mr Bowles said: “A lot of people in the industry are saying ABS is the end of the world – but we are using it in an entrepreneurial way.”

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