Kent County Council's legal team is set to become an alternative business structure, with its licence expected later this year and its doors opening in spring 2017. The team already provides legal services to more than 600 public sector bodies around the country, but the move to an ABS may lead to the new organisation offering white-label services to private practice law firms in lower-margin areas such as property transactions. Efficiency through technology is at the heart of an anticipated increase in profitability.
A Gazette interview with Geoff Wild, the head of Kent Legal Services, revealed that revenue growth is a key objective for the ABS: "The council’s in-house team currently turns over around £10.5m, Wild said. Once the ABS is up and running, the team plans to increase turnover to £14m in the first three years, £18m in the first five years, and £29m in the first 10 years."
Kent is not the first council to make the move to an ABS with the intention of delivering greater profit by providing services to non-public sector clients. Essex County Council's legal team received its ABS licence in April 2016, having stated one of its aims as generating additional income by pursuing "business currently not permitted under either the constraints of local authority trading or the regulatory requirements of the SRA”.
The second test was that the work has to be better in terms of performance, outcomes and efficiency, which he said the new technology should help achieve. Last year, Mr Wild told his council that “in future, we will no longer have a legal business that happens to use technology. Instead, it will be a digital business that happens to do law”.