22 July 2018

Evolve Family Law: a BSB-authorised entity case study

About the BSB regulating entities

In January 2015, the Bar Standards Board began regulating entities. Entities are businesses that are owned by lawyers (not necessarily barristers), but specialise in advocacy, litigation and specialist legal advice.

Evolve Family Law Ltd

Evolve Family Law is a BSB-regulated entity that specialises in family law. The entity is owned and run by two solicitor directors, Louis Halford and Robin Charrot. It was authorised by the BSB in August 2015, and it is based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire, just south of Manchester.

For more information, see their website: http://www.evolvefamilylaw.co.uk/

What services do you provide the public?

We provide most of the personal legal services that would be required in a family context, namely:

  • Divorce
  • Financial disputes between divorcing and cohabiting couples, including cases with an international element
  • Children disputes between divorcing and cohabiting couples, including international abduction and relocation
  • Nuptial agreements and cohabitation agreements
  • Advising trustees who get involved in divorce cases, or who want additional protection from a potential divorce situation
  • Inheritance Act claims
  • Neighbour disputes and other personal litigation
  • Wills
  • Probate
  • Surrogacy and adoption

What are the pros and cons of being regulated by the BSB?

The pros of being regulated by the BSB are:

  • The turnaround time of our application was much quicker than it would have been with the SRA (7 weeks from submission of all application forms)
  • The authorisation and renewal fees are lower than with the SRA
  • We have access to PII cover with Bar Mutual, a non-profit making body, who have very competitive premiums
  • The BSB handbook is much more user friendly and easy to follow. It is also available via a handy app
  • We have found the personnel at BSB very friendly and helpful
  • The authorisation and renewal process was very easy and quick
  • Notifying the BSB of any changes in our practice or personnel is also pain-free

There are not that many cons:

  • There was a glitch with the online authorisation application process, which meant we had to scan and email one of the forms to the BSB
  • BSB had some additional questions after our initial application which could probably be covered by making the application forms more comprehensive. However, the questions were perfectly reasonable and dealing with them did not significantly add to the overall timescale for authorisation
  • We are not permitted to operate a client account. However, we have remedied this by using the BARCO escrow account service, which can act in every respect as a client account, and is almost as good as having our own client account, save for a little extra paperwork, a one week time lag in us getting paid out of funds held by them, and at a cost of 2 per cent of any fees paid to us via BARCO. However, the escrow arrangement gives clients more security because they know their money is being held by someone independent, and it means that we have much less of a compliance headache
  • We can't actually go to the open market for PII cover because at the moment only the cover offered by Bar Mutual meets the BSB's minimum cover terms. However, even if we could go to the open market, I doubt that we would cover for a lower premium than with Bar Mutua

What advice would you give other lawyers considering setting up a BSB-regulated entity?

  • Call BSB and Bar Mutual first to make sure that your proposed entity is something that they could deal with
  • Think about the legal structure for your entity. A limited company worked well for us in terms of tax efficiency and governance
  • Make sure that you are well prepared before you apply, including a well-reasoned and realistic business plan (including conservative financial predictions), and written policies / procedures forallaspects of your intended practice (including management and supervision)
  • We had a lot of vital assistance on this from our accountant and from a Risk and Compliance consultant
  • We recommend the BSB for proportionate regulation, and we do not regret moving to a better suited regime