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The price we pay for the Legal Services Act

With government reform on the way, John Gould assesses the impact ABSs and a finance-inspired compliance approach have had on the industry

19 August 2015

The arrangements to accommodate alternative business structures (ABSs) sometimes feel like a house prepared for a party. No effort or trouble has been spared, the furniture has been moved around, parents have been sent away, and neighbours warned. But, it's nearly midnight and hardly any guests have appeared. Perhaps a Mad Men fancy dress theme was a bad idea after all.

Although the Legal Services Act 2007 has arguably led to far-ranging consequential changes in the way lawyers are regulated, the basic changes were significant but few. Non-lawyers were allowed to own and manage law firms; the separation between representative bodies and regulation was given a legislative base; the handling of service complaints was consolidated under an ombudsman; and a new regulator of regulators, called the Legal Services Board, was created.

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