Barristers mean business under new regime

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) says it received 30 applications to set up prospective BSB-regulated entities within five days of a new “major chapter” for the Bar beginning.

From 5 January, the BSB has been accepting applications to set up BSB-regulated businesses, or entities, owned and managed by lawyers, and providing reserved legal activities such as appearing in court as an advocate. The BSB is due to begin authorising applications in April this year.

The new regime means that barristers and other advocacy-focused lawyers can form companies, become a partnership or set up a limited liability partnership without having to change regulators. The BSB says the change will mean they are better placed to pool resources and share the risks of investing in their own business.

Oliver Hanmer, director of supervision for the BSB, said on 13 January that from 5-9 January, 30 applications had been received, showing there was “a real appetite among many at the Bar for doing things differently.

“Applications are considered on a first come, first served basis, so I’d advise barristers considering setting up a BSB-regulated entity to get in touch with us as soon as possible. Ultimately, it’s our job as the barristers’ regulator to help those who want to adopt new advocacy-focussed business models, which we think will broaden client choice.”

The majority of applicants were prospective single person entities, five were for entities of two to five people, and one was for an entity of six to 15. Almost half were from the Greater London region, around a third from Birmingham, Manchester or Nottingham and the rest were spread across England.

This year, the BSB will apply to the Legal Services Board to become a licensing authority for Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) – entities with non-lawyer owners and managers.

Mr Hanmer added:  “This is a major chapter in the story of the Bar. Adjusting the way in which it does business is critical to the profession’s posterity. As a regulator, it is our job to do what we can to enable barristers to alter the ways in which they can structure their practice so it better meets clients’ needs.”

Research published in summer 2014 by the BSB and the Bar Council showed there was clear interest across the Bar in setting up or becoming part of an entity:

  • 34 per cent of family barristers and 26 per cent of criminal barristers had definite or possible intentions to become involved in an entity with only barristers as owners and managers
  • 26 per cent of criminal barristers and 23 per cent of family barristers had definite or potential plans regarding entities with barristers and other lawyers as owners and managers
  • 18 per cent of criminal barristers and 17 per cent of family barristers had definite or potential plans regarding entities with barristers, other lawyers and lay people as owners and managers.

Barristers considering, or who are interested in exploring, options for more flexible operational regimes now available may find it useful to have access to expert advice on issues including tax and accounting implications, business structures and business strategy. For more information, please contact us.

Posted in Barristers.