Solicitor and barrister join forces to set up construction ABS

Construction: bringing enforcement work in-house

A solicitor and a barrister have joined forces in a start-up alternative business structure (ABS) that will service construction sector clients and has ambitions to employ a range of professionals associated with the building industry.

Altion Law Limited, which received its ABS licence from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), is the brainchild of non-practising barrister Anthony Galvin and commercial specialist solicitor Rebecca Hudson.

It is the second construction sector-related ABS to have received SRA approval. In February, global consultancy linked up with a niche construction practice.

Until recently Mr Galvin was a director and head of legal of construction and disputes consultancy Altion Ltd and the two companies are both based at the same address in Bedford.

Mr Galvin told Legal Futures: “I see no reason why an ABS that specialises in construction can’t start to become involved with other professional construction service providers. There are a number of high-value professionals out there who feed into that sector… architects’ practices, quantity surveyor practices; there has to be the potential to exploit that, surely.”

He was cautious about predicting work would flow to the ABS from Altion Limited clients, but he said personal relationships may help. “There are some clients who know me personally and have asked about the new venture. I know that some of them are keen to use the services that Altion Law can offer that Altion Limited couldn’t.”

Mr Galvin explained the pair had been considering a joint venture since the Legal Services Act was passed. “We have been talking for a long time about the potential that ABSs offer for people who have gone down different qualification routes. We decided this was a hell of an opportunity.”

Mr Galvin added that when advising on construction disputes, it has sometimes been necessary after an adjudication to refer clients to external solicitors, for instance to initiate enforcement proceedings. “Obviously now the idea is that we can bring all that in-house. We’ve got years of experience in adjudication but now we… can effectively take it all the way from start to finish, even if the other side doesn’t pay.

“It’s useful because certain types of contracts are excluded from adjudication… ABS allows us to offer services under the potentially large contracts in certain public sector areas that we couldn’t before, so it enables us to fill in gaps.

“It also allows us potentially to deal with certain other areas, such as negligence concerning professionals involved in the construction process; negligent architects, negligent surveyors. Previously we could have dealt with the financials of the dispute but, say, a negligence claim against an architect would have to go to a separate body to deal with. Now we can offer the full portfolio.”


    Readers Comments

  • It’s good to see increasing thought.

    That said, ABS is just a name given to a structure with a set of rules attached to it. Innovation has been entriely possible for decades. Don’t assume that moving to an ABS will make you modern and innovative, is I guess what I’m saying.

    Thinking of recent publicity, e.g. the above, the Co-Op etc I’d like to say this:

    …we’ve been a virtual firm since 1996

    …we’ve had a barrister working in our firm for years

    …we’ve offered fixed fees since last century

    What really worries me, though, are the firms that avoid any change at all. It’s like refusing to get off your iceberg when it is melting!

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