Monday 10 June 2013 by John Hyde

A London chambers specialising in immigration law has become the first barrister-led practice to apply successfully for ABS status.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority said Richmond Chambers was the first of its 152 alternative business structures to be headed by barristers.

Although members are available to accept instructions from solicitors, the practice provides legal advice and representation to clients on a direct public access basis.

It hopes to use the ABS licence to attract clients and members of the bar keen on a different business model to the traditional barristers chambers.

'Whilst international clients are attracted to the opportunity of seeking advice and representation from the bar, many are more comfortable instructing a regulated entity rather than a regulated individual, said principal barrister Paul Richmond.

'Practising as an ABS has enabled us to offer our international clients the protection of two regulatory regimes - a barrister regulated by the Bar Standards Board, practising from a chambers that is regulated by the SRA.'

Richmond said the new status would promise new entrants to the bar the independence and flexibility traditionally enjoyed by members, combined with the job security, collaborative working and career progression found in a progressive law firm.

He added that experience of practice within a traditional chambers had found it was often difficult for a collection of self-employed barristers to achieve consensus on business development.

The new status enables a team of managing partners to be introduced, along with a non-lawyer with financial management experience.

The BSB, which regulates barristers, is still thought to be some way off becoming an approved regulator of ABSs.

Last month the Legal Services Board said it expected the BSB to demonstrate 'significant progress' in its approach.

The bar regulator agreed in April 2011 that it would seek to regulate advocacy-focused ABSs, legal disciplinary practices and barrister-only entities, but it has yet to make a formal application.

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