Nick Avis outlines the possible benefits and drawbacks to barristers of practising through a limited company
There has been a lot of discussion around the future of the Bar and the changes that have emanated from the Legal Services Act 2007 (LSA 2007). Some aspects of these changes are dependent on the regulation of entities offering certain legal services. The Bar Standards Board (BSB) recently issued a further consultation document on the subject of entity regulation. The consultation closed on 29 June. It is understood that the BSB intends to put structures in place so that it can regulate:
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I know from the barristers I talk to that the term “Alternative Business Structures” is not exactly on the tip of every counsel’s tongue. So few of you I suspect have been following the fall-out from the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s recent announcement that the October deadline for their launch was not going to be met. But as with many of the changes the profession is facing, what is happening in one area of the profession potentially has major implications for their colleagues elsewhere.
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“A barrister’s clerk? What exactly do they do?” It’s a question I’ve been asked regularly since I first started clerking in the mid 1990s. Since the escapades of the fictional Senior Clerk Billy Lamb were brought to the small screen in the BBC1 drama series Silk, the question has recently changed to “Are all barrister’s clerks like that?!” Thankfully in my experience they are not, and by some way.
At its most recent Board meeting, the regulator of the Bar in England and Wales took the decision to regulate advocacy-focused Alternative Business Structures, Legal Disciplinary Practices and Barrister Only Entities, collectively referred to as ‘entities’. It will not extend its remit to regulate Multi-Disciplinary Practices.
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Geoff Everett and Toby Tallon of Smith & Williamson outline the key business structures available to chambers to enable them to withstand the stormy times ahead.
Critical analysis after disaster strikes is seldom kind. As seen recently in Japan, commentators have found it all too easy to lay the blame for the aftermath of the tsunami on the inadequate plans, safety measures and management structures that were in place. A weather warning has now been issued for the UK Bar.
The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has confirmed it will regulate advocacy-focused Alternative Business Structures (ABS), Legal Disciplinary Practices (LDPs) and barrister-only entities, but not multi-disciplinary practices.
The BSB said entities under its regulatory control would not be able to hold client money or have external ownership but would be free to apply to conduct litigation.
Owners of BSB-regulated entities must be managers, and there will be a 25 per cent limit on non-lawyer ownership or management. A majority of the owners and managers must be barristers or advocates with higher rights of audience.
Barristers will be free to practise as managers or employees of ABS under other regulators, and to have ownership interests in ABS subject to rules regarding conflicts of interest. All managers of BSB regulated entities (barristers, solicitors and non-lawyers) will be subject to the same conduct rules.
The BSB will now develop a regulatory framework, draft rules and options, before launching a consultation on the proposed changes in the autumn.
Further details are to be found in Professional Update.
Chief Executive and Senior Civil Clerk, 9 Gough Square Chambers
A leading common law set based in London but appearing in courts throughout England and Wales and abroad. Key practice areas are personal injury, clinical negligence, professional negligence, fraud and serious crime, family, police law, employment and property.
Head of Chambers, 12 Gray's Inn Square
Admitted as a Solicitor in 1966. Appointed Silk 1997
Chosen as one of the UK's "go to people" for international arbitration and was involved in the drafting of the 1996 Arbitration Act. 12 Gray's Inn Square starts practising as of 15 April and is one of the first examples of an alternative business structure (ABS) at the Bar.
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