It is highly unlikely that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) will be able to license alternative business structures (ABSs) on 6 October, Legal Futures can reveal.
Legal Services Board chief executive Chris Kenny has admitted to us that getting the required orders through Parliament in time is looking “not impossible but very difficult”.
However, he stressed that any delay will be a matter of weeks, rather than months.
Legal Futures first flagged up the possibility that the ABS timetable could slip in March.
Various statutory instruments have to be laid before Parliament to bring the ABS regime into being and designate the SRA as an ABS licensing authority.
Mr Kenny explained that the main problem was the SRA’s recent decision to opt for the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal as the venue for appeals by ABSs against its decisions, rather than the LSB’s preferred destination, the First-tier Tribunal. The SRA changed its mind late in the day because of concerns over whether it could recover its costs before the general regulatory chamber as it does before the disciplinary tribunal.
Mr Kenny said that while the SRA had been “perfectly entitled” to make this late switch, it has “added a couple of new links to the chain that weren’t there before” and put pressure on the parliamentary timetable.
The Ministry of Justice has to lay an order to confirm this decision, and under the Legal Services Act the order then designating the SRA as an ABS licensing authority cannot be laid until 21 days after the appeals order is approved.
With Parliament going into recess in mid-July, this all means that the designation order may have to wait until Parliament returns in the autumn.
However, 6 October will still be “ABS Day” of a sort as Mr Kenny said the Council for Licensed Conveyancers will be in place to start licensing ABSs on that day.