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Legal Services Board approves SRA application to become ABS licensing authority

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The Legal Services Board has approved the Solicitors Regulation Authority's new Handbook and its application to become a licensing authority for alternative business structures.

The Handbook sets out the standards and requirements for individuals and firms (including ABSs) under the SRA’s new regime of principles-based, outcomes-focused regulation. It will come into force on 6 October.

Under ABSs, non-lawyers will be able to own and manage legal service providers. The SRA’s application to become a licensing authority will now be submitted for Parliamentary approval.

SRA chief executive, Antony Townsend, said: “The Handbook is the culmination of a great deal of collaborative work between the SRA and our stakeholders. It is a key part of our new regulatory regime, putting the needs of clients at the heart of regulation, and offering greater freedoms in the delivery of legal services.

“We are also delighted to win the LSB's approval for the licensing authority application, which will now go forward for Parliamentary approval. We believe that it is in the public interest for us to regulate ABS, as this allows us to ensure that these new business are subject to the same rigorous professional standards as those expected of traditional law firms.”

Townsend added: “We remain on track to be ready to license from October, but this is subject to the Parliamentary timetable and process.”

Legal Futures revealed last month that it was highly unlikely that the SRA will be able to license ABSs on 6 October. Legal Services Board chief executive Chris Kenny told the legal regulation website that getting the required orders through Parliament in time was looking “not impossible but very difficult”. However, any delay would be measured in weeks rather than months.