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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

14 JUL 2010

Andrew Woolley on Practice Management

What to do about Alternative Business Structures?

Andrew WoolleyI recently spoke at a Law Society event on how to survive the Alternative Business Structures (ABS) issues. I was asked to explain my firm as an example of innovation. The assumption presumably being that innovation would mean coping with the advent of ABS.

It struck me that none of us were able to explain much about ABS except to talk about the regulations and what each of us thought might happen. Nobody really knows what will happen, including the regulators and the Government. What an odd way to deal with such an important aspect of public and private life.

I suspect there will certainly be much more competition especially for the work that can be process driven so for example perhaps undefended divorce, wills, conveyancing, contact terms and so on and that this competition may well come from outside the profession. How much will they want to charge us for giving us the complex bits?

So, given this, how do firms ready themselves?

I don't think we can do anything specific about the ABS situation as it is all guesswork at the moment. But we can all work hard to massively improve our firms now and should be anyway. Maybe fear of the ABS will helpfully make some of us concentrate on that issue for once. My "snapshot" list of suggested moves for family departments, especially, would be:

- Standardise your undefended divorce letters and put them into document assembly software at least.

- Do your lawyers really need secretaries?

- Why have qualified lawyers doing the undefended divorces? Why not train up an ex-secretary?

- Employ a part qualified accountant to do Form E (no doubt much quicker than most lawyers could).

- Make sure you have a plan of where you want to be in 5 years time. Add to that in outline only how you propose to get there and have a detailed action plan for the next 12 months with names and "due by" dates. Of course you'll review this every year at least and may change it somewhat based upon events.

- Speak to your lawyers and your clients and find out what they want and think.

None of the above may deal with the unknown bits of an ABS but then how can you prepare for the unknown? At least the above will put your firm in a much better business position than most are at this moment.

Andrew Woolley is the Senior Partner of Woolley & Co solicitors which he set up in 1996 as the world's first 'virtual' lawfirm with no traditional offices but a network of home based lawyers. Click here to follow Woolley & Co on Twitter

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.

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