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UK law firms to be permitted to own separate businesses

Will be able to compete on a 'level playing field' with ABSs, says SRA

5 June 2015

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is removing restrictions on law firms in England and Wales from having links with outside businesses.

Under the changes to the separate business rule, which were agreed by the SRA Board this week, firms will be able to own or be connected to separate businesses that provide non-reserved legal services.

"We are levelling the playing field for all types of law firms, encouraging innovation and growth, while ensuring appropriate consumer protection. This follows on from changes we made last year to open up the market to different business models and 'one-stop shop' services," said Paul Philip, chief executive of the SRA.

By changing the separate business rule, all law firms can own separate businesses, allowing them to compete on a level playing field with alternative business structures (ABSs).

As part of the same package of reforms, the rules on the activities that can be undertaken in law firms have been relaxed, making it easier for firms to create "one-stop shops" for professional services.

"We are now looking into what more we should do to give solicitors even more flexibility in future," said Philip.

A consultation on these proposals took place from November 2014 until February 2015.

The changes are pending the approval of the Legal Services Board. If agreed, they will be part of Version 15 of the SRA Handbook when it goes live on 1 November 2015.



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