"Oops – we’re actually not as inefficient with ABS applications as we made out," says SRA


A calculator: as not used by the SRA

Inaccurate statistics published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) over the past six months have painted a worse picture of its handling of alternative business structure (ABS) applications than the reality, it has emerged.

However, there are still around 150 applications going through the system.

On Wednesday Legal Futures reported that only three ABS applications had made it through to the decision phase in the second and third quarters of 2012 combined, leaving in all 167 still to have their applications deemed complete by the SRA and put through to the formal decision phase. In total it appeared there had been 206 ABS applications between January and September.

The story was based entirely on the SRA’s published quarterly performance reports.

Since the story was published, the SRA has contacted us to admit that we inadvertently exposed major flaws in its reporting, and that actually 40 made it through during those six months.

The new full figures are that in the first nine months of 2012, the SRA has received 198 stage 2 applications. Of these, 47 have been invoiced, payment of which starts the clock ticking on the six months the SRA has to decide on the application. Some 33 licences were granted by 30 September – this figure is now up to 39.

In all this means that as of 1 October, there were 151 applications still in stage 2. There is no time limit for the period between submitting the stage 2 application and it being accepted by the SRA as complete, which has become one of the main bones of contention in the application process.

Meanwhile, Keoghs, which became an ABS last week to allow for investment from LDC, has become only the fifth ABS to have conditions attached to its licence.

These require that: “Any remuneration paid by the licensed body for the services of any of the solicitor members must be paid to them directly and not through the corporate member, Keoghs Acquisition Limited, or the corporate owners, Keoghs Midco Limited and Keoghs Topco Limited.

“No solicitor may provide legal services through Keoghs Acquisition Limited, Keoghs Midco Limited or Keoghs Topco Limited.

“The corporate member, Keoghs Acquisition Limited, and the corporate owners, Keoghs Midco Limited and Keoghs Topco Limited, must not be held out to the public as providing any type of legal services.”

A Keoghs spokesman said the Topco and Midco represent a “pretty standard ownership structure for buyouts”, adding: “From a sector perspective, legal services are provided by Keoghs LLP, which is the contracting body with clients. All staff are employed by Keoghs LLP, too.”




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