The average time taken by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to approve alternative business structure applications has fallen to three months, it has emerged.
As a result the Legal Services Board (LSB), which has been actively monitoring the way ABS applications are handled by the SRA, said it was considering ending the practice at the end of the year.
In a recently published update, Chris Kenny, chief executive of the LSB, said the SRA had cut its work in progress for ABSs from 142 applications in January 2013 – when the LSB began its monitoring exercise in January 2013 over concerns about how long the process was taking – to only 30 in October 2014.
During that time it has granted 267 licences, while 99 have been withdrawn. It takes on average six and a half months from application to be granted a licence.
However, the 51 ABSs approved in 2014 were granted their licence in three and a half months on average.
The average age of work-in-progress applications is now just under two months, while only one of them is older than six months.
Mr Kenny said that when the board started monitoring the SRA’s performance, more than half were over six months old. He said the latest data showed that stage one of the application process, involving completion of the application form, “may be down to around two months”.
According to minutes of the LSB’s September board meeting, the board “agreed that a letter would be written to SRA congratulating it on the progress it had made on authorisations”.
The board described the SRA’s performance as “significantly improved”, and said “the lifting of reporting requirements could be contemplated at around the turn of the year”.
The LSB became so frustrated by lack of progress in the time taken by the SRA to approve ABSs that, by August last year, it considered launching a formal investigation.
However, by June this year, the SRA reported that had slashed its backlog of applications to 52 in April.