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SRA Improves Lower Risk ABS Application Process

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is to speed up the process of giving lower-risk applications alternative business structure (ABS) status in a move to address concerns that the current procedure takes too much time, the Law Gazette has reported.

Criticism has been directed at the SRA for the slow authorisation process, which has caused substantial delays in obtaining an ABS licence. In order to streamline the procedure the authority has also published new guidance about applying for authorisation, which is expected to facilitate the work of both ABSs and recognised bodies.

The changes are expected to favour legal disciplinary practices (LDPs) because they can become ABSs without changing their business model. The reforms will also apply to firms looking to hire a non-lawyer to expand their management structure.

The new guidance follows a review of the SRA's processes that have been used for a year, which resulted in bringing individual authorisation teams together to ensure a more consistent approach to all entities, SRA executive director Samantha Barrass commented.

The guidance provides information on how to prepare and file an application, fees, and ways to receive additional help and advice.

Among the applications defined by the SRA as low risk are those filed by partners from existing firms seeking to separate or merge with another firm, which have a clean background, adequate business plan and the necessary systems and controls in place. In cases where the proposed ownership structure is sophisticated, the SRA will require an investigation and analysis.