SME firm eyes ABS licence to share fees with non-lawyer collaborators

Brooke: Solicitors not particularly business-like

A law firm that works with non-legal businesses to offer SME clients a multi-disciplinary service is to convert to an alternative business structure (ABS) so that they can share fees.

Lynne Brooke, the highly experienced founder of virtual firm The Brooke Consultancy (TBC), said small businesses were still not being offered the legal services they needed despite the changes in the shape of the profession.

TBC was set up in 2009 to provide services for SMEs “in the round” and Mr Brooke said he avoided using ‘solicitors’ in the firm’s name because solicitors were “not particularly business-like”.

Mr Brooke, admitted as a solicitor in 1970, said law firms needed to “re-establish trust with SMEs” and should be their “partner in law and business”.

He said the changes in the way the profession was regulated over the last decade were “by and large beneficial” and “positive in addressing the question of what was best for SMEs”, but did provide the answer.

Mr Brooke said he collaborated with accountants, independent financial advisers, website designers and brand consultants so that SMEs could be offered a multi-disciplinary service – and offers in-house non-legal advice on strategy, government relations, crisis management and cyber-security, cyber-resilience and data protection.

He said he was working on applying for an ABS licence so they could work more closely and share fees.

During a pandemic which had cost small businesses an estimated £69bn so far, not to mention the need to comply with the new Brexit rules, Mr Brooke said the legal sector needed “greater aptitude for business” than ever to solve the problems of SMEs.

He added: “I’m not interested in retiring at this stage. I’m interested in growing the firm to the point where it is fully geared to the needs of SMEs and then passing it on, without being paid, to the people who’ve worked for me.

“I’m not motivated to get out the lawn mower or dust down the skirting boards.”

TBC is currently made up of four partners, working remotely, helped by five support staff, also working from home.

The firm provides a range of advice to SMEs on areas such as company and commercial, litigation, immigration and insolvency.

Its lawyers keep 70% of the fees from work they introduce and carry out, 20% of the fees from work they introduce but it handled by another lawyer at the firm, and 50% of fees generated by handling other work at TBC’s request.

They can also build an equity stake in TBC and are told that, if in time they choose to leave TBC, “you take your clients with you, no dispute, no resistance”.

Mr Brooke said the firm planned to increase its number of partners from four to nine this year and was currently in talks with two lawyers about joining. New lawyers are expected to have a following generating at least £75,000 a year.

Solicitor and entrepreneur Chris Disspain runs the firm’s management team and is director of non-legal services. Until last autumn, he was also a director of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

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