LGSS Law – the shared service venture between Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire county councils – is hoping to start trading through an alternative business structure (ABS) early in 2015.
Quentin Baker, Director of Law, Property & Governance, said the organisation had applied to the Solicitors Regulation Authority for an ABS licence in August this year.
Two meetings have since been held with the SRA, he said, and LGSS Law had received assurances that the regulator should be able to process the application by Christmas.
Baker said the necessary company had now been incorporated, and that the decision to obtain ABS status has been endorsed by Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire. LGSS' founding councils have a 50% shareholding.
He added: “We are aiming to start trading as soon as possible in the new year but we are currently waiting for a new accounts package to be built by the LGSS Business Transactions team. We need to have fully separate accounting facilities to satisfy the SRA and Solicitors Accounts rules.”
Baker said that as LGSS Law had been a fully traded model for some years the transition to an ABS would have little impact upon the day-to-day operation of LGSS Law.
However, ABS status will remove the restrictions regarding the bodies to which it may provide legal services.
“Our focus is on the public and not-for-profit sectors including charities, health and social landlords,” Baker said. “We have no intention to work outside of these sectors nor do we intend to seek any non-public sector partners. Over the last three-and-a-half years LGSS Law has increased its income from external bodies by almost 300%.”
Last week saw the formal launch of Buckinghamshire Law Plus, the first local authority-owned ABS to be granted a licence by the SRA. It has been set up by Buckinghamshire County Council and the Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority.
They secured their ABS licence on 8 August, a day before HB Public Law – the shared legal service between Harrow and Barnet councils – was granted its licence.