The Legal Services Board (LSB) is voicing its support to name the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) as a licensing authority for alternative business structures (ABSs), its chairman David Edmonds has said.
Edmonds said that the ICAEW had finally overcome all obstacles to become an approved regulator. The new role of the ICAEW will also give it powers to regulate probate activities, meaning that its members will be able to conduct probate work.
The ICAEW's entry into the legal services market is one of the major developments in the sector after the introduction of the Legal Services Act 2007, which granted non-lawyers the power to set up and own law firms. ICAEW members, including at least one of the four biggest accountancy firms, are now expected to apply for licences allowing them to provide legal services to clients. They will also have the right to handle reserved probate work and to establish ABSs.
Edmonds said that the ICAEW's reason for applying to become an approved regulator was to authorise members to conduct probate activities in addition to related services they currently provide, describing the move as "a very considerable step for liberalisation in the legal services market." Going forward, the ICAEW will also be given powers to regulate litigation and other legal services.
The ICAEW made its formal application to become a regulator of ABSs and probate services in December 2012 after a public consultation. The final approval has to come from the Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, with confirmation from Parliament.