Over 300 ABS applications waiting in the wings, says SRA


Barrass: acceleration of approvals

More than 450 firms have started the alternative business structure (ABS) application process over the past year, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has revealed.

Having started accepting applications on 3 January 2012, the SRA said that 454 firms have since started the  process, although 67 lapsed after not following up their initial stage 1 application within 90 days.

Some 117 have completed the submission of all necessary information and 74 licences have been granted (although as of this morning only 64 have been made public on the SRA’s ABS register). A further 19 are close to completion.

There has been a recent spurt of licences, with around 40 approvals over the past month or so. Despite repeated criticisms of the speed of the application process, the SRA said it has “learned from the operation of the new system and, in the light of that learning, revised its guidance to applicants; firstly in June, then again in October”.

It said the amended guidance has been led by both feedback from firms going through the process, and also from the SRA identifying themes as it deals with the applications. A video that offers advice on the process is also currently in production.

Samantha Barrass, SRA executive director, said: “We are pleased with the number and range of ABSs that have entered the legal market in the past 12 months. The acceleration of approvals reflects both improvements we are making to our processes, and applicants responding to our requests for information.

“Our advice to prospective applicants is to engage with the SRA before making an application. You should study the guidance on our website carefully as well as the application form and related guidance and respond to any follow-up queries that we have promptly, to ensure the approval timescale forms part of your commercial considerations.”

To see the range of ABSs approved in recent weeks, visit Legal Futures’ ABS section here.

This article was updated at 1.25pm on Monday 14 January after the SRA revised the number of ABS applications it has received upwards

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