Christine Houghton, Sales and Marketing Director at Kings Court Trust, provides a summary of the ABS licences issued throughout August and shares her thoughts on the situation so far…
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) licensed 13 alternative business structures (ABS) throughout August, in what seems to have been the peak month in the ABS approval process since the authority started accepting applications in early January.
The new entrants bring the total number to 27 as at the end of August, with national law firm, Irwin Mitchell, becoming the first "multi-licence" ABS, gathering five licences to cover an array of activities within its group structure; from field agency and debt collection services to insurance claims handling to dealing with executorships.
Parabis Law was the first private equity-backed company to receive an ABS licence. Of the other firms that were granted ABS status in August, five - Boyle Leonard Willden Ltd (BLW), Franklins LLP, Isadore Goldman, Langley Wellington LLP and Tracey Miller Family Law Ltd - were existing law companies that adopted the new business model, and one, property management firm Crabtree Law, was a novice on the legal scene. In the final week of August TPP Law Ltd, a niche London legal practice focused on public services, became an ABS.
Also, following the emergence of Kings Court Trust as an ABS a few weeks earlier, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), added Enact and Total Conveyancing to its list of five ABSs.
So, we can clearly see that the Legal Services market is in transition, characterised by regulatory changes and customer expectations for more modern and customer-centric services. For Kings Court Trust, achieving ABS status was a natural progression; it was the next logical step in a journey that has seen us invest heavily in IT and front-end service to drive up efficiency and improve customer service.
I see the market horizon as being a case of “when” not “if” – one where all providers of legal services will have to up their game and then stay committed to continuous improvement, both to set and keep them apart from their competitors and to meet the expectations of a new generation of consumers. Those expectations include a choice of channels of access to legal services, packaging and pricing, and quality of delivery. The themes of choice and personalisation of service delivery will continue to be important factors, as will transparency of service scope and, of course, fixed and reasonable pricing presented in a form that the consumer understands.
In essence, the ABS is simply a normal business structure, which brings the notion of customer service and doing right by the consumer to the forefront of our minds, and subsequently filters through into all aspects of the way we do business.