Morrish teams up with union to form an ABS

LAW firm Morrish Solicitors has joined forces with one of its trade union clients to form an alternative business structure with the aim of attracting more investment into the business.

Morrish senior partner Paul Scholey

The Leeds-based firm, which received its ABS licence yesterday (Friday), has collaborated with national trade union the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), which has 22,000 members.

TSSA joins the firm as a partner and member of the limited liability partnership, bringing external investment to the law firm, which acts for around 20 trade union clients.

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Morrish senior partner Paul Scholey said obtaining the licence had been a “rigorous and taxing” process but he hoped the move would attract more trade unions to invest in the law firm.

“We have worked with TSSA and the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority for 12 months to establish what we believe is the world’s first Union-based ABS,” he said. “ It brings us closer to one of our most significant clients, whilst TSSA benefits from a direct financial relationship with a major service provider.”

He added: “We have ensured that rigorous controls are in place to provide for our continuing independence and impartiality – and so that our other clients can be satisfied that their interests continue to be best served as ever.

“The SRA licensing process has been painstaking in its detail to ensure that past, present and future clients’ positions are 100 per cent safeguarded.”

ABS was introduced as part of the Legal Services Act, which allows non-lawyers to take equity stakes in law firms for the first time, creating major opportunities for expansion.

The Legal Services Act, which came into force in October 2011 has been a catalyst for major changes in the sector.

It also means that non-legal companies, such as supermarkets and banks, can enter the sector.

Mr Scholey said the level of investment made by TSSA into Morrish could change over time and no plans had yet been made about what the investment would be used for.

He added that other law firms could follow suit if Morrish’s collaboration was successful.“If we have got it right and it attracts new clients as well as existing clients it will become another element of competition,” he said.

Frank Ward, assistant general secretary of TSSA, said, “We are delighted to be able to announce joint partnership working with Morrish.

“We have a long and happy relationship with Morrish, and the natural next step now that non-lawyer investment in law firms is permissible was to look at better integration of the provision of legal services to our Union and our members – but without any of the regulatory issues that would arise were we to create an in-house legal team.

“We are looking forward to developing our legal offering for members together with our legal partners”.

Morrish, which specialises in personal injury, employment rights and trade union, has been trading for over 100 years.

It has a £5m turnover and employs 80 staff across offices in Leeds, Pudsey, Bradford and Yeadon

It expanded its headquarters at the end of September with a move to new open plan offices at Oxford House on Oxford Row in Leeds.

The move followed a year of growth for the company, which saw the workforce increase from about 65 as client numbers continued to expand.

The company said the move to new offices would enable it to grow further.

Looking ahead to 2014, Mr Scholey said Morrish would focus on building its clinical negligence department in Bradford and its elderly client work in Yeadon and Pudsey in addition to strengthening its trade union ties.