Scottish Parliament approves ABSs with minority external investment


Scottish Parliament: restricted ABSs approved

The Scottish Parliament yesterday approved the introduction of alternative business structures (ABSs) which are majority owned by solicitors and other regulated professionals.

The Legal Services (Scotland) Bill completed its passage through Holyrood and allows external investors to hold 49% of any new legal services business. MSPs had previously rejected English-style ABSs where firms could be owned 100% by external investors. It also introduces regulation of non-lawyer will-writers.

Minister for Community Safety Fergus Ewing said: “The passage of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill today is good news for our businesses and consumers. At the heart of this Bill is a desire to modernise the profession. It presents greater opportunities, in a regulated framework, for firms of all sizes to be more competitive and to devise a business model which suits them and their clients. The Bill will deliver clear benefits for the legal profession and consumers.”

The Law Society of Scotland has been split over ABSs, although the outcomes of the Bill is that approved by its council. President Jamie Millar said: “I am pleased that MSPs have voted to approve this legislation. These changes will broaden access to legal services and allow the Scottish legal profession to remain competitive against a challenging economic backdrop and in an increasingly international, competitive market.  At the same time, the Bill continues to protect the principles and core values that underpin the Scottish legal profession. 

“There has been much debate, both within and outwith the legal profession, on this Bill and its provisions to allow solicitors to enter into practice with non-solicitors.  However, it is now important to move forward and ensure these changes work in practice within the strongest possible regulatory framework. The society intends to work with government to enhance the provision of legal services and access to justice for people in Scotland.”

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