The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has announced the latest organisation it has licensed as an alternative business structure (ABS).
NewLaw Legal Limited, based in Cardiff, is the next ABS firm to be authorised by the SRA, and joins Co-operative Legal Services, John Welch and Stammers, and Lawbridge Solicitors Ltd, which were announced on March 28. New Law also becomes the first Legal Disciplinary Practice (LDP) to achieve such status.
NewLaw Legal was established in 2004 and is a personal injury specialist firm comprising 260 staff. An LDP is a firm owned and managed by a combination of different types of lawyer, and up to 25 per cent non-lawyers.
Antony Townsend, SRA Chief Executive, said: "We're delighted to have licensed our first LDP as an ABS, and the first ABS in Wales. NewLaw joins the Co-op, John Welsh and Stammers, and Lawbridge Solicitors in the first wave of ABSs, with a number of further applications nearing approval.
"The arrival of ABSs should foster a more flexible and innovative market, stimulating competition, encouraging innovation and boosting consumers' experiences."
Helen Molyneux, Chief Executive of NewLaw Legal, added: "This is an extremely proud moment for our business. NewLaw was founded in anticipation of the legal services market being opened up to non-lawyer ownership.
"Since then we have shaped the business to take on a corporate structure in anticipation of this moment. Our ABS status will give added momentum to the joint venture business strategies that we have been evolving for some time."
NewLaw will now be added to the SRA's register of ABS organisations, which lists information about each practice and the services it can provide. An ABS is a business providing regulated reserved legal activities but which has either, or both, non-lawyer owners and managers. Traditionally law firms have had to be owned and managed only by lawyers.
The non-lawyer ownership and management of legal services providers under the Legal Services Act 2007 was one of a significant raft of reforms designed to liberalise the regulation and provision of legal services in England and Wales. The SRA started accepting ABS applications on 3 January, after being designated a licensing body by the Ministry of Justice in December 2011.
Seventy four Stage 2 forms have been submitted so far after initial interest from more than 200 applicants.
Read more about the ABS application process.