The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has slashed its backlog of alternative business structure (ABS) licensing applications from 142 in January 2013 to 52 in April this year, it has emerged.
The average age of work-in-progress ABS applications is now three months, with 10% between six and nine months old and none older than nine months, figures from the Legal Services Board (LSB) show.
This time last year the LSB was so frustrated at the slow pace of licensing that it considered launching a formal investigation.
At that time the SRA was taking an average of seven months from submission of the stage 2 application to grant an ABS license, with a fifth of applicants having to wait more than nine months. The first stage of process can take two to three months to complete.
In his chief executive’s report for April’s LSB board meeting, Chris Kenny said it was now taking an average of seven months for the whole licensing process, with a fifth of applicants waiting for nine months.
Figures in the report showed that as late as January this year, 30% of work-in-progress applications were six to nine months’ old, with 70% over three months’ old.
The following month those aged between six and nine months had been cut to less than 25% and the number over three months’ old had fallen to under 50%.
The data continues to show that multi-disciplinary ABSs take longer than most others to win approval, but the SRA is currently consulting on how it can improve their licensing.
A spokesman for the SRA said: “We’re pleased the LSB has recognised the progress we have made in this area. Everyone is aware of the challenges we faced in creating proportionate and effective licensing arrangements for ABSs as a new form of legal entity.
“We have constantly listened to feedback from applicants and continually made improvements to our processes, which has led to these speedier times.
“However, we know there is still much more we must do. Our focus will continue to be on reducing the time taken to reach decisions, and we are working towards a position where most applications will be decided within three months.”
The total number of ABSs licensed by the SRA stands at 271.