ABS in the UK: Deregulation. Creativity. NEW OPPORTUNITIES. The UK has recently implemented new legislation that allows for any ‘fit and proper’ company to provide legal services. This means that in the UK, non-lawyer owned businesses can now offer legal services to the public, unlike here in Canada, where only lawyers can own a law firm.
The UK legislation, colloquially referred to as Tesco Law, has led to much creativity in the way legal services are delivered and as a result Alternative Business Structures (ABS) are being created all over the UK. For a more detailed description of the new laws check out Joanne Tucker’s post in the Business Zone. And for some FAQs check here.
While there are both proponents and critics of the new laws, there is no doubt that deregulation means more flexibility in the creation of a law firm. I personally believe this flexibility in structure also INCREASES the POSSIBLITY of more flexible work arrangements for lawyers working in the ABS (and often better value for the clients). And so I’d like to share with you some of the cool ABS examples I’ve come across!
The first major ABS in the UK to offer a range of legal services previously only available through private solicitors is the Co-op. Yes, in the UK you can now stop by your local Co-op for a jug of milk AND a Last Will and Testament on the way home from work! The Co-op also has a YouTube channel explaining different aspects of the law. Whether you think this is a good idea or not, there is no doubt that certain clients appreciate the reduced cost and the convenience. The Co-op has also been successful in catching the eye of lawyers looking for an alternative to the status quo. It has successfully scooped up senior lawyers from traditional firms as well as adding new law graduates to its team. You can check out what some of the Co-op’s lawyers are saying here.
Another example of an interesting new ABS is Riverview Law, which is offering legal advice for a FIXED FEE (and which has recently struck out in the US as well)! To find out what they’re all about check out this interview by Ron Friedmann, of Andy Daws, VP of North America, of Riverview Law.
And for reflections from a fellow Canadian on the awesome innovation going on at Riverview Law and the UK generally, check out Mitch Kowalski’s article – “green with envy”, he concludes. I AGREE.
Cool organizations like Insights Shed have also popped up to help lawyers think creatively, bring innovation to their practices, and make ABS work!
And just so I don’t go on forever, check out this blog post by Catherine Baker for more examples of innovative ways that legal services are being delivered in the UK… or Google “alternative business structures for law firms” and read up on the many many more innovative creations that are happening in the UK!
There are so many new firms offering innovative ways of delivering legal services and flexible working environments I could never summarize them all. But these examples should give you an idea of what’s POSSIBLE when we start to think outside the box.
Just so were on the same page, the point of this article is not to analyze different ABS models or to make a pithy case for certain ABS over structures here in Canada (although if that sounds intriguing to you, you may want to check out Mitch Kowalski’s book, Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century).
My intention is simply to give you a window into what our common law friends are up to, and to increase your perception of what’s POSSIBLE. Because the more I read, the more I’m certain that the answer to the question of “what’s possible?” is… ANY ALTERNATIVE YOU CAN IMAGINE.
And so, this concludes DAY 2 of TYS’ LAW LOVE STORIES series. Check back tomorrow for more examples of lawyers creating and sharing a LIFE they LOVE in LAW.
(p.s. One last tidbit – Australia has also deregulated law firms (they did it even BEFORE the UK), and in Melbourne, Slater & Gordon became the world’s first publicly traded law firm! Care to invest?)