The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) will begin accepting licensing applications for alternative business structures (ABS) from 3 January 2012, with the first successful ones announced within around six weeks, it announced today.
The order designating the SRA as a licensing authority for ABS was laid before Parliament today and will come into force on 23 December. The SRA has set the date of Tuesday 3 January – the first working day after the New Year – as the date on which it will start accepting applications.
Depending on the complexity of the first applications received, the SRA said it expects to announce the first successful applicants in the second half of February 2012.
Delays in the parliamentary process meant the original ABS start-date of 6 October was missed by the SRA, although not the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, which unveiled the first ever ABS that day. The collective failure of the SRA, Ministry of Justice and Legal Services Board to be ready on time was described by Professor Stephen Mayson as “something of a shambles ” given the uncertainty it introduced.
Chief executive Antony Townsend said: “We welcome the news that we will become an ABS licensing authority from 23 December. This is a milestone that we have been working towards for nearly two years. It means the public can have confidence that ABS providing reserved legal activities will be regulated according to the same rigorous professional standards as traditional law firms.”
Further details of how to apply can be found on the website here . Those wanting further information can e-mail the ABS team on ABScontact@sra.org.uk  or call them on 01527 519107. The relevant application forms will be published on the SRA website in the near future.