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ABS countdown | Iceberg Ahoy

The two most important legal regulators are set to collide over a significant regulatory issue, and Stuart Bushell can’t see a change of course

1 March 2013

Older readers may remember a famous Bill Tidy cartoon, set at a steamship company after the Titanic disaster. There are many people seeking news of the passengers but one man has a polar bear on a lead, with the caption reading “No, but is there any news of the iceberg?” The recent exchange between the Legal Services Board on the future of the separate business rule in the SRA Code of Conduct reminded me that it is easy for two people to look at exactly the same situation in completely different ways.

In its post-OFR form, the separate business rule is set out in chapter 12 of the code. It is rather less specific than it used to be but, in essence, it is designed to stop both traditional law firms and ABSs from separating out their non-reserved legal work into unregulated businesses. The SRA argues that, if this were to be allowed, it would be confusing to consumers and allow the possibility of unregulated legal w...

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