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Barristers to play full part in ABS firms

3 May 2011

Barristers will be allowed to play a full part in ABS firms, the Bar Standards Board has announced.

This includes not only working as employees or managers of ABSs, but owning them. Ownership is subject to the BSB developing rules to regulate conflicts of interest.

In a further move, a spokeswoman said the BSB had decided to regulate advocacy focused ABSs within strictly-defined limits.

Baroness Deech, chair of the BSB, referred to this as “barrister-flavoured regulation” at a conference in London last month (see, 11 April 2011).

The spokeswoman said all owners of BSB-regulated ABSs would be managers and there would be a 25 per cent limit on the number of non-lawyer managers.

A majority of the owners and managers would be barristers or other advocates with higher rights of audience and firms would not be allowed to hold client funds.

However, BSB firms would be permitted to apply to conduct litigation, if they wanted to.

“Nearly 75 per cent of respondents to our consultation agreed that BSB regulation of entities would be in the public interest,” Deech said.

“I am pleased that the board has listened to the profession and other respondents and taken this bold step forward, promoting choice and increasing access to justice.

“We intend to target our regulation on advocacy focused entities, taking a risk- based and proportionate approach.

“We hope that this decision will allow barristers the freedom to react to changes in the legal market and permit them to devise new ways of working in order to remain competitive and better serve the public.”

Deech said the BSB would carry out further research and develop a detailed regulatory framework which would be put out to consultation in the autumn.

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