Legal fees insurance provider Abbey Protection is strongly considering buying a law firm to take advantage of the forthcoming deregulation of legal services.

The introduction of alternative business structures (ABS) under the Legal Services Act, which will allow companies to provide legal services previously restricted solely to law firms, has been delayed until the end of the year. The reform was originally scheduled for October this year.

“The principle focus for us will be expanding our own in-house legal expertise but also we are also looking very closely at opportunities for acquiring a law firm,” said Abbey Protection managing director Chris Ward. However he added that the company was still at the early stages of its investigations.

Abbey expects the introduction of ABS, commonly referred to as ‘Tesco Law’, to allow it to offer a more comprehensive range of legal services.

“Once we have that capability we will look to expand the level of legal services which are currently restricted to providing advice over the telephone and also employment tribunal services,” Ward said. “Opportunities will abound there.”

Ward’s comments come as Abbey announced a 10% rise in profit after tax to £3.8m in the first half of 2011 and a 6% increase in revenues to £18.3m.

“I’m quietly very satisfied with the numbers. I think they are a really good, solid performance,” Ward said. “When we started 2011 we were apprehensive that conditions would be difficult and challenging, but the numbers have held up very well.”

Ward attributed the strong result to the counter-cyclicality of the legal and professional fees insurance business, as well as Abbey’s pricing discipline.