Monday 20 August 2012 by Catherine Baksi
National firm Irwin Mitchell has today become the first multi-licensed alternative business structure, with five licences covering a range of its business operations.
The five licences cover Irwin Mitchell LLP; Ascent Collections Ltd, which offers field agency and debt collection services; Coris UK Ltd, which offers international assistance and insurance claims handling services; Irwin Mitchell Trustees Ltd, which accepts appointments as a trustee, executor and estate administrators; and Irwin Mitchell Trust Corporation Ltd, which accepts appointments to act as deputy from the Court of Protection.
The SRA has also approved the appointments of Glyn Barker, the former vice-chairman UK of PricewaterhouseCoopers, as chairman of Irwin Mitchell's parent company, IMCO Holdings Ltd, with immediate effect and Mel Egglenton as a second non-executive director and chair of the company's audit committee, a role he previously held with accountants KPMG.
Irwin Mitchell is one of the largest firms in the UK, with 60 solicitor members, five non-solicitor members, 75 salaried partners, and 20 non-solicitor directors and associate directors.
It employs over 2,200 people in seven offices in England, and owns the Spanish legal practice Irwin Mitchell Abogados, which has offices in Madrid and Malaga.
Irwin Mitchell was one of the first firms to convert to legal disciplinary practice status in May 2010, promoting non-lawyers to its equity structure, and was among the first applicants for ABS status when the SRA began taking applications in the first week of January.
The firm, which recently reported a 6.8% increase in turnover to £183.7m for the financial year 2011/12, announced in April that it would seek ABS status.
Group chief executive John Pickering said the announcement was a 'major step forward'. He said the firm had achieved its first objective in receiving its licences for the group and would now drive forward its growth plans in the coming months.
He said: 'It's a very significant day for us, an important milestone which positions us well to take advantage of the opportunities which we think will arise from the changing legal landscape. We can now push on with our plans for growing the business. Conversion to ABS status sends a clear signal that we intend to move forward with our strategy.'
Pickering added: 'We are also pleased to be the first multi-licensed ABS, which reflects the breadth of our offering to clients. Our group structure has been built with that strength of diversity in mind and we believe it puts us in a very strong position in the changing legal sector.'
Antony Townsend, chief executive of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, said: 'The ABS total is gathering pace as is the variety of models that we are seeing emerge.'
He said that the multi-licensed grant to Irwin Mitchell shows that the Legal Services Act 1997, which enabled ABSs, 'gives plenty of scope' for all types of applications.
Townsend added: 'Our authorisation system has been built to be flexible enough to deal with a range of organisations with hugely varying corporate structures and robust enough to apply the same stringent suitability criteria by which traditional firms are judged.'
Irwin Mitchell is the 19th firm to be granted ABS status by the SRA.