Bar Council urges caution over Alternative Business Structures

THE Bar Council has published its response to the Legal Services Board’s wide-ranging discussion paper on Alternative Business Structures (ABS). The response from its Working Group on ABS reflects the Bar Council’s support for a pragmatic and proportionate approach to the liberalisation of the legal services market, as envisaged by Sir David Clementi in his review of legal services in England and Wales.

In its response, the Bar Council broadly welcomes the introduction of Alternative Business Structures for the legal professions, and believes that legal services consumers will benefit from increased competition between the Bar, known for its low overheads and high levels of expertise, and other legal services providers.

The Working Group emphasises the need to recognise that access to justice requires access to fully qualified representation. There is concern expressed that the LSB will support new forms of access to legal services in the mistaken belief that this, in itself, constitutes
improved access to justice. The Bar Council argues that it is vital that the liberalisation of the legal services market is proportionate, evidence-based and incremental in order to preserve public confidence in effective access to justice. The response provides comment on elements of the LSB’s approach towards Alternative Business Structures.