The Law Society of Scotland has stated that a growing number of Scottish legal practices, both small and large, are keen to gain the status of Alternative Business Structure (ABS), although rules for conversion to the new business model are yet to be fleshed out.
The "licensed legal services providers," as the future Scottish ABSs will known, must be majority owned by solicitors and/or other regulated professionals such as surveyors or accountants, a requirement their established counterparts in England and Wales do not face.
The Law Society of Scotland, which regulates individual solicitors, has expressed interest in becoming an approved regulator of the new legal services model as it seeks to ensure consistent standards and regulations across the sector to benefit both providers and users of legal services. In confirmation of this commitment, the Society tabled draft ABS regulations to the Scottish Government on 16th of last month.
With significant increases in cross-border merger activity in the legal services market and a rising number of law firms seeking further clarity on the new business scheme, the Society's director of regulations, Phillip Yelland, told the Law Society Gazette that the need to introduce new ABS rules in Scotland is becoming more pressing. However, the Society's work remains limited until the Government introduce investor-related regulations as well as rules on spent convictions and other major issues, similar to those that have already been put into effect in England and Wales.
The Society cannot predict when the first ABS will come to the Scottish market as all necessary regulations are yet to be put in place but it expects to see applications for the new business structures by the end of 2012.