Thursday 01 November 2012 by Catherine Baksi

Lyons Davidson has been granted alternative business structure (ABS) status, which the national firm hopes will help it capitalise on changes in the UK legal market.

Managing director Mark Savill told the Gazette that the move is key to its strategic relationship with insurers in preparation for the implementation of the Jackson reforms that will see a ban on referral fees and a review of portal fees.

Savill said: 'We are talking to a number of different organisations about how they should respond to the changes that will be introduced next year, and looking at potential different ABS models with insurers in the market.

'Our ABS licence is an important element that allows us to deliver some innovative solutions beyond helping them to build standalone ABS companies.

'Our ABS strategy is looking not just at services for individuals injured in road accidents. Our emphasis is on working with well-known brands to enhance our personal legal services, securing access for customers and policyholders to a wide range of products where they can be confident about the price, delivery and service,' he added.

Group chief executive Nick Delaney said the ABS environment had been essential in the development of the firm's strategy that has seen it develop a full outsourcing service to insurers, including claims-handing services, a 24-hour legal advice line, a full range of rehabilitation service management, a national network of physiotherapists, and a workflow technology company.

He said: 'We have worked closely with our business partners in the insurance sector to identify areas where we can invest, develop and provide efficiencies through our service delivery processes.

'Combined with some strategic supply relationships, this has enabled us to build an integrated service that we are able to offer to insurers that goes far beyond a traditional legal service. ABS [status] allows us to bring together the right people and, as we identify further opportunities, an ability to seek external capital if needed.'

Savill said that although ABS status enables the firm to source external funds, it has not yet seen the need to do so, and this was not the 'driver' behind its application to change status.

Lyons Davidson has 48 partners and operates from offices in Bristol, Solihull, Leeds, Surrey, Plymouth, Cardiff and London, as well as an associated practice in Edinburgh.

It was one of the first firms to convert to a legal disciplinary practice and as such is obliged to change to an ABS. Savill said the application process, which took nine months, had been 'a positive one'.

He added: 'In all the dealings we have had with the SRA ABSs team, we have found them to be very willing to engage. They have been very clear about their approach to different issues and the information they need, and have been prepared to discuss different models to ensure that the content of any application has the right focus when it is presented to them.'

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