The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has placed controls around the Parabis Group’s offshore operation in South Africa, it has emerged.
Parabis received its alternative business structure (ABS) licence yesterday , making it the first ABS with private equity investment.
It has a 60-strong operation in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, responsible for pre-litigation claimant motor injury file handling.
Conditions attached to its ABS licence say that Parabis must not increase the proportion of non-legally qualified fee-earners to legally qualified fee-earners from the existing ratio of 34:1 without the SRA’s prior approval. It must also not change the nature of the work undertaken by its South African arm without the SRA’s prior approval. The final condition is that Parabis must notify the SRA at least 28 days before opening another overseas office.
Parabis CEO Tim Oliver explained that the SRA wanted to make sure that the South African office is run exactly as it would be were it in the UK; so if Parabis wants to expand in Pretoria, the supervision ratio of lawyers to non-lawyers will need to be similar to that in the UK.
He added that if Parabis decides to start doing other work over there, it would need to flag that with the SRA to ensure it does not breach the separate business rule.
The conditions could be particularly significant given the stated intention of Duke Street, the private equity company now behind Parabis, to turn it from a professional services firm to a business process outsourcer, with lower-cost offshore locations usually a key part of the outsourcing mix.