Chief exec says companies are impatient for government to pass Legal Services Act

Legal expenses firm DAS is poised to buy a stake in a solicitors’ firm once a new law is given the green light.

The first stage of the Legal Services Act 2007 is set to come into force early this year, allowing non-lawyers to buy up stakes in law firms. The bill has been given Royal Assent but is waiting for the government to finally give it the go-ahead.

DAS chief executive Paul Asplin said: “The minute that the government finally gets all the paperwork in order, we will own a solicitors’ firm. We would do it today if it was possible.

“We’re just a bit frustrated that it is taking so long because parliament has passed the Legal Services Act and we’re all waiting for the regulator to get organised.

“It’s very frustrating because it should have been done by now, but we’ll have to be patient, I suppose.”

Asplin said defendant insurers are likely to be less interested because of competitive rates they can get through contracted work, but said in the claimant market, accident management firms were poised to snap up law firms.

He said “Obviously, in the claimant market it is a bit different, and I would say there are many, many companies, particularly claims management companies, who are poised to own solicitors’ firms.

“Quite frankly, some of them will probably do so through various routes and it is only a matter of time. I think it will be widespread.

And I suppose any ban on referral fees, notwithstanding it would not work anyway, is just a nonsense.”

AXA claims director David Williams said there were no immediate plans to own stakes in a law firm, but in the longer term it had not been ruled out.