ABS moves to fill “gap in market” for law firms in advisory services

Patrick Tolhurst: wants ability to bring other professionals into firm

Patrick Tolhurst: wants ability to bring other professionals into firm

A solicitor-led investment consultancy has sought an alternative business structure (ABS) licence as part of its plan to expand and exploit what it called a “gap in the market” for lawyers in advisory services.

Marlborough House Partners has two solicitor partners and advises entrepreneurial and investor clients on property and other investments, and on corporate fundraisings and company exits, as well as managing commercial and legal projects.

The firm, which has until now offered unreserved legal activities, has been licenced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in August, effective from 1 October.

The head of legal practice, Philip Tolhurst, was the senior partner of 13-partner Southend-on-Sea and Chelmsford law firm Tolhurst Fisher and was at the firm for 43 years. He co-founded the consultancy in 2014.

Marlborough House partner and co-founder, Philip’s son Patrick Tolhurst, a former Farrer & Co associate, told Legal Futures that the ABS had plans to expand the firm’s non-lawyer talent “further down the line”.

If the right people could be found, experts in “tax advisory and management consultancy” would be invited to join, on a “fairly autonomous basis.”

He said the consultancy had been focused on “stuff that isn’t reserved activities, but we feel partly now that we’ve got to the stage where to be respectable we need to be regulated [and] have the ability to take other professionals on board”.

He observed: “It’s where I think the market is moving. I think there is a gap for advisory services which lawyers have given way to other professionals on for quite a long period of time.

“Accountants and others are moving into this area… For us, being general advisory providers, I think it will help us if we can offer [reserved activities].”

Mr Tolhurst continued: “My instinct is that at the top of the pile we have law firms needing to get larger and larger – and to service that they need to have big and bigger deals – then you have those niche practices that are specialist in very narrow areas.

“There’s a big gap in the middle of general advisory work, which for a lot of UK companies is not necessarily being done by law firms.

“Filling that gap are in-house general counsel, accountancy firms, corporate financiers, management consultants, and also firms probably a bit like us that work on a ‘virtual firm’ basis… That’s the gap we are hoping to continue to grow into, which is what we’ve been doing so far.”

Marlborough House’s chief operating officer is Caroline de Rougement, who joined in April. She was a business development executive in Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s dispute resolution practice, and before that an associate solicitor at White & Case, where she trained.

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