A will-writing and probate services company in Birmingham has become the latest alternative business structure (ABS), and only the second licensed by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC).
Northwood Banks & Co – which is run by a husband and wife team and has 10 staff – has taken the step so that it can handle the reserved part of probate work and also undertake conveyancing.
Director Roland Borriello told Legal Futures that he had been eyeing up the move for many years as “the whole operation and the service we provide would run better if we got control of the various aspects in-house” rather than outsourcing.
Last year the firm recruited solicitor Kevin Parsons – who is the head of legal practice – in anticipation of becoming an ABS. Mr Borriello’s wife, an accountant, is the head of finance and administration.
He said he also had an eye on the impending regulation of will-writing once the Legal Services Board makes it a reserved legal activity. But as a longstanding member of the Institute of Professional Willwriters – which requires adherence to an Office of Fair Trading-approved code of conduct – Mr Borriello said he did not anticipate becoming an ABS making a huge difference to the way Northwood Banks operates.
The CLC is able to regulate probate work in addition to conveyancing, and CLC-regulated firms have been able to accept external investment for about a decade prior to the ABS regime going live. Mr Borriello said he had previously considered the CLC as an option when examining the possibility of becoming regulated, and as a result felt more familiar with the council rather than the Solicitors Regulation Authority when it came to choosing an ABS licensing authority. He described the licensing process as “rigorous but reasonably straightforward”.
Premier Property Lawyers became the country’s first ABS on 6 October last year when it received its licence from the CLC. Speaking at April’s Legal Futures conference, CLC chairman Anna Bradley said that it was considering six ABS applications, five of which were “entirely new either to regulation itself or to regulation by the CLC”.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority has so far licensed eight ABSs, one of which is a will-writing company, .