How to apply

To apply for authorisation as a BSB entity, please visit the Entity Authorisation Application Portal and follow the on-screen instructions.

The Entity Authorisation Application Portal supports the following browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox 10.0 and later, Safari 5.0 or later and Internet Explorer 10.0/Microsoft Edge. 

If you would like to discuss the authorisation process or any other related matter with us, please get in touch with us by email at [email protected] or telephone on 020 7092 6801.

If you have a disability and need adjustments or help with certain aspects of entity regulation, we can make reasonable adjustments where appropriate. Please contact our authorisation team via the contact details above to discuss your needs. 

The application process – a step by step guide

Step 1 – Is a BSB entity for you?

The application and authorisation rules in the BSB Handbook set out the general criteria that applications need to meet to be authorised by us.  The Entity Regulation Policy Statement describes the factors and information we consider when deciding whether an entity is suitable and appropriate to be regulated by us.

Applications need to demonstrate that:

  • the entity meets the mandatory requirements for authorisation (see Part 3, Section E.1 of the BSB Handbook); and
  • it is appropriate for an entity to be regulated by us (see Entity Regulation Policy Statement); and
  • the management, control, and compliance structures and processes are sufficiently robust; and
  • key individuals are suitable for their role(s). 

Step 2 – Register and provide basic details

To apply to become an entity you need to go to the Entity Authorisation Application Portal and follow the following steps:

  • Register - go to Entity Authorisation Application Portal and follow the on-screen instructions to register;
  • You will be asked to register as either an Authorised Body (all owners must be authorised individuals) or a Licensed Body (at least one owner is not an authorised individual); 
  • You will also be asked to provide some basic information, like an address; and
  • After you have registered, you can return to your application to complete the forms, and attach other required information, until your application is complete and can be submitted. To do this, you will need the user name and password you chose when you registered.

Step 3 – Complete the forms

Aside from registration, you will need to complete five forms which require you to supply the following information:

  • The “Entity Members form” requires basic details of owners, managers, Head of Legal Practice (HOLP), and Head of Finance and Administration (HOFA).
  • Form A covers entity and eligibility details, and mandatory criteria.
  • Form B covers governance, business model, and compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Form C needs to be completed by owners, managers, HOLPs, and HOFAs. It covers their suitability for the roles.
  • Form D requires a declaration that the information supplied in the other forms is accurate and true.

Entities that wish to provide a litigation service also need to complete:

  • Form E which covers employees and processes in place that support litigation.

Step 4 – Provide supplementary information

In addition to completing the forms, you will also need to provide supplementary information including:

  • Your business plan;
  • Your financial plan;
  • Your business continuity plan; and
  • Details about the owners, managers, HOLPs, and HOFAs including their CVs, Practising Certificates, and DBS checks for non-authorised individuals).

Step 5 – Submit the completed application

Once you have submitted your application, we will check it for any obvious errors and omissions. When we have satisfied ourselves that the application can go ahead, we will send you an Application Fee Payment Request. Once you have paid, we begin our assessment process. This can last up to six months, depending on the quality and complexity of your application, and on our work load.

Step 6 – Our entity assessment process

Our assessment process has four parts:

  • Our first assessor considers the information you have supplied and cross-checks it against information available to us from other sources.
  • A second assessor looks at the application, focussing on your business model and compliance with our regulations.
  • The two assessors agree whether / what additional questions need to be asked, and what additional information we require before we can make a decision.
  • If we require further information to support your application, the first assessor will contact you, and manage any replies we receive from you. Depending on how quickly we receive responses to our questions, and how complex your application is, we take our final authorisation decision soon afterwards.

Step 7 – Authorisation

After we have decided to authorise an entity:

  • we will contact you to discuss an authorisation date (up to one month in advance) and to confirm the final authorisation details; and
  • we will send you a copy of our formal authorisation letter by e-mail.

Your authorised entity will then have 21 days from the date of its authorisation to:

  • provide us with proof of insurance for the entity; and
  • pay the authorisation fee.

When your entity is insured and has paid the fee it can start trading.

If we decide not to authorise your entity you can appeal – see our page on what happens after an entity authorisation decision has been made.

Step 8 – Post authorisation

Once your entity has been authorised, you will need to:

  • contact the Bar Council’s Record Office to advise them of any change in the practising status of its employees;
  • register with the Information Commissioner;
  • inform us of any changes to your entity’s business model or key individual(s); and
  • renew your authorisation annually. The annual renewal process usually takes place in Spring and you will be advised about it by e-mail.

More information about the application process

The entity application process takes up to six months

We must issue a decision about your application within six months of receiving your completed forms and the applicable fee. We can extend this to nine months in certain cases. 

To ensure the efficiency of the application process, your replies should be comprehensive but suitably succinct. If we do not receive everything we need to complete our assessment, we will ask you for further information. This could delay your application since we operate a strict first-come-first-served policy when processing applications.

Our assessment criteria to determine whether authorisation is appropriate

The information you supply will help us assess the risks posed by your entity, taking into account:

  • how and by whom it will be governed and managed;
  • the types of legal services it intends to provide, and how it delivers them;
  • its impact on the wider legal services market; and
  • its risk assessment and mitigation procedures.

Part 3, Section E.1 of the BSB Handbook sets out the mandatory requirements for authorisation which your entity must meet. Where these are met, we assess the additional information you provide in a flexible and holistic way to determine whether your entity is appropriate for us to regulate. 

We encourage you to read the Entity Regulation Policy Statement which explains our approach in more detail.

A BSB entity must have a practising address in England and Wales

A "practising address" is the address from which reserved legal services are provided. 

Your entity must have a practising address in England or Wales at all times. We will ask you to confirm this as part of your application to become regulated by us. You must also let us know if there is any change to your practising address.

A practising address is different from a registered address. A registered office is the official address of an incorporated company, association or any other legal entity. Generally, it will form part of the public record and is required in most countries where the registered organisation or legal entity is incorporated. The BSB Handbook sets out the requirements for registered addresses for companies and partnerships at Rule S83.3.

"HOLP" and "HOFA" definition

Every entity must have a HOLP and a HOFA at all times. The HOLP must be an authorised individual, ie a lawyer with a current practising certificate. The HOFA can be a non-authorised individual. The same person can carry out both roles.  

Individuals responsible for these key roles must be suitable and meet the criteria specified in Part 3 Section E.5 of the Handbook.

If your HOLP or HOFA leaves your entity, you must inform us as soon as possible and nominate another individual for us to approve. 

A BSB entity needs to register with the Information Commissioner's Office

You can get guidance about the principles of data protection and the responsibilities of individuals and organisations on the Information Commissioner's Office website.

The Bar Council has also published useful guidance about obligations and duties which can be found through on their website.