I was almost squirming with embarrassment as I read a press report this afternoon under the heading Midlands ABS issues ‘join us’ plea to insurers.
For those who don’t immediately recognize the terminology an ABS is an alternative business structure, approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, that allows lawyers to share ownership and profits with non-lawyers. Traditionally we weren't allowed to and…no, that’s another story.
Liability insurers have got excited about them because it’s seen as a way to team up with a law firm and perpetuate the relationships that were fuelled by referral fees prior to 31 March this year when the ban on bungs came into force. Many are saying it will just carry on but behind closed doors.
Shakespeares, a near-700 strong Midlands law firm with a decent reputation, has been granted ABS status. Having had the op, it’s apparently keen to get into bed with an insurer – any insurer, by the sound of it!
They’re said to be “ABS-ready and looking to team up with any insurance firm wanting to enter the legal market”.
It brings to mind instantly all those devil-worship books and films where the hapless disciple moves heaven and earth (literally, sometimes) to summon up a massively powerful and treacherous beast that slaps the dismayed devotee around for a while before devouring them.
Partner Craig Wallace is reported to have said that he’s “sure that for insurers in particular, an ABS will bring opportunities to drive efficiencies, improve processes and life-cycles and therefore reduce costs.”
They say if you run with wolves, you’ll get bitten.
Eaten, more like.