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Scotland Delays ABS Introduction Until End of 2013

The Scottish government is taking more time to review the application of the Law Society of Scotland to become an approved regulator and as such it will delay the introduction of alternative business structures (ABSs) at least until the end of the year.

The Law Society was the sole authority to apply to become a regulator of "licensed legal services providers (LPs)," the Scottish equivalent of ABSs. It had expected to receive approval by the end of April 2013, but the government has suggested that it will make a decision towards the end of the year.

LPs, whose creation was approved under the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010, allow solicitors to go into business with non-solicitors for the first time. The Act supports majority ownership of at least 51% by solicitors or other regulated professionals of new licensed providers, in contrast to England and Wales.

The Law Society of Scotland filed for Approved Regulator status in December and has been discussing the matter with the government since then, but still there are certain issues which are yet to be addressed, a spokesman for the authority said. Even when the government provides its feedback, it will take some time before the LP model is finalised and resubmitted, a spokesman for the Society commented.

Once the Law Society resubmits its applications, the government will need to hold consultations with the Lord President, the Office of Fair Trading and other authorities.

According to the Society's president, Austin Lafferty, the legal profession is showing huge interest in setting up new business structures.