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SRA update

Little has changed in respect of the two main issues for 2013; The Referral Fee ban and ABS authorisations.

The Law Sociey Gazette has reported that the SRA has ruled out a delay on the introduction of referral fee ban, despite warnings that the timetable is being rushed. The SRA board will meet on 23rd January to finalise the SRA Handbook’s wording on the ban, which comes into effect for personal injury claims in April 2013.

The Referral fee ban was extensively covered in the blog article ‘Reading the tealeaves’ dated   following the publication of the SRA response to the latest consultation document on the ban, that was imposed by the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 [LASPO].

The use of Alternative Business Structures [ABS] has been seen by many as a ‘work round’ to avoid the draconian effects of the Referral Fee ban in LASPO. The SRA has however made it clear that any application for ABS status will require detailed consideration of the business case behind the proposal and if it appears that the application is a mere device to disguise the payments of fees, then the approval will be witheld.

A number of recent ABS applications have been approved by the SRA, including an international legal consultancy chaired by Cherie Booth QC called Omnia Strategy LLP which seems to be a specialist Oil and Gas exploration. Seven new applications have now been confirmed, bringing the total that have been licenced to over 60.

The most interesting development seems to be the decision of Barrister led firm Artesian Law to apply to the SRA for approval, despite the individual members being regulated by the Bar Standards Board. This reflects a widespread belief at the Bar that the much awaited BSB proposals to allow Barrister led ABS firms is somewhat of a ‘damp squib’ due to the constraints of the 75% barrister member rule, which many find to be wholly unworkable. 

Other new ABS’s include the north west claims management firm Jigsaw Law, following the purchase of Silverbeck Rymer by AIM listed Quindell Portfolio in a £19m deal to build an ABS combining a legal practice with IT and other claims management services. 

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