It means that subject to the application being approved by the Legal Services Board, the SRA should be ready to start taking applications from prospective ABSs from 6 August and start regulating them from 6 October.
This also assumes that the many statutory instruments needed to activate part 5 of the Legal Services Act 2007 pass through Parliament in time – about which there are some doubts.
Law Society chief executive Des Hudson (pictured) said: “The Law Society believes it is right that we should seek to regulate ABS and we want to be certain that the regulatory framework guarantees the same levels of probity and consumer protection that has been the tradition of the solicitors’ profession.
“The Law Society council has examined the proposals from the SRA very carefully and voted to put forward the application to the Legal Services Board.
“With the introduction of ABS, law firms will have to consider what the best structure for their business will be. An ABS business model will not suit every firm, and over the coming months the Law Society will run a programme of national road shows offering advice and support for the profession.”
The Law Society will issue a practice note on ABSs in May, he added.
Charles Plant, chairman of the SRA board, said he was delighted by the decision. “The application is the culmination of a determined effort by the SRA, working with consumer groups, the Law Society and other professional organisations, the Legal Services Board, and others to deliver a rigorous regulatory system which enables wider choice for consumers while preserving high professional standards. It demonstrates the SRA’s ability to deliver a reformed regulatory system to a demanding schedule.”