Leading accountancy firm Kingston Smith has become the first alternative business structure (ABS) to switch regulators after being granted a licence by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
It had been the first ABS regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, but the only area of reserved work the institute can currently regulate is probate.
The move allows the top 20 accountancy practice to offer a wider range of legal services, and it has hired Andrew Bloom – formerly a corporate partner in the London office of US firm Steptoe & Johnson – as a partner and head of legal services.
In a statement Kingston Smith said Mr Bloom’s primary focus would be “to grow and enhance the firm’s current legal service offerings by providing additional ancillary services where appropriate to do so and delivering an all-encompassing and comprehensive approach for clients”.
Sir Michael Snyder, senior partner at Kingston Smith, said: “The granting of our ABS licence and Andrew’s appointment as head of legal services is in line with the firm’s strategic direction in terms of building on its existing client services.
“Additionally, clients will certainly benefit from Andrew’s extensive expertise and legal knowledge and we look forward to all that he brings to the firm.”
Speaking at Legal Futures’ regulation conference earlier this year, Sir Michael said that once the firm was licensed by the SRA, the “limited” legal services it would offer, for example on M&As or HR issues, would be “incidental” to the firm’s wider work.
“We have no intention of doing conveyancing, larger M&A, family or criminal work,” he said.
He would not be drawn on whether the firm would return to the institute’s regulation if and when it has the power to regulate all of the reserved legal activities.
This was Kingston Smith’s second application to become an SRA-regulated ABS. He told the conference that the first one had been “sheer hell” because of how the regulator initially dealt with accountancy firms, but this had now changed.