Newson: looking at financial services and accountancy

A QualitySolicitors law firm with ambitions to become a one-stop shop for a range of professional services is among new alternative business structures (ABSs) whose licenses become active next month.

Another is a boutique law practice serving fund managers, which made the switch to ABS to align its internal structure more closely to those of its clients.

Two-office, full-service Essex high street firm QualitySolicitors Hill & Abbot becomes an ABS on 1 July. Its head of legal practice, managing director Jeremy Newsom, said the business was exploring “embryonically” the possibility of “offering services other than law”. Being an ABS would allow the firm to take on directors from non-law businesses, he explained.

“We are looking at the possibility of financial services [and] of accountancy. There are other more remote ones, estate agents possibly – the whole raft of professional services that affect ordinary people’s daily lives. One of the ideas is perhaps becoming a one-stop shop.”

The firm was a legal disciplinary practice which previously included non-lawyer Marion Smith, who was the firm’s practice manager and is now the ABS’s finance director, as well as its head of finance and administration.

Last week Legal Futures reported on the ambitions of Butterworths Solicitors to offer clients a mix of legal and non-legal services.

Boutique funds and fund management law firm Cummings Solicitors, which has offices in London and Switzerland, has five solicitors and also becomes an ABS on 1 July.

Its principal and head of legal practice, Claire Cummings, who founded the firm in 2002, told Legal Futures that its clients tend to be limited liability partnerships and/or companies. “We feel we now run our business much more in line with the business of our clients, which we feel gives us a greater understanding of their needs.”

Operating as an ABS means that in practice “we face the same day-to-day requirements and challenges as our clients, so we can experience the same business environment as them and hopefully that will develop the way in which we can give them commercially as well as legally based advice”, she explained.

Ms Cummings said the firm had no intention of seeking external investment. “Our business model is predicated upon being a high-quality boutique firm and that’s what we want to remain. We don’t need to seek external funding for that. We don’t want [it] because we don’t want to have to answer to external shareholders. We want our business to be based on providing a good service. The only people we want to answer to are our clients.”

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