University applies for alternative business structure licence, which would boost its student-run pro bono advice centre
The third largest law school in the UK is bidding to become an alternative business structure (ABS), in a groundbreaking move to that would create the first “teaching law firm”.
Nottingham Law School — part of Nottingham Trent University — issued a statement earlier this morning saying it has applied to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for the enhanced status, which would give a boost to its existing student-run advice centre.
ABSs — which were first granted three years ago under the Legal Services Act 2007 — allow non-lawyers to own and operate law firms.
According to the law school, the advice centre is set to handle more than 180 pro bono cases for the 2014-15 academic year. It covers various areas of the law, including employment, housing, and business and intellectual property law.
The centre deals not only with social welfare casework, but also runs the Miscarriage of Justice Project, assists local community projects, as well as public legal education schemes and overseas placements.
The law school statement said an ABS licence would “give the Centre flexibility in its future development”. It added that ABS status would put Nottingham Law School “in a unique position in the university sector, and enable its students to participate in the work of a teaching law firm”.
The law school’s associate dean, Jenny Holloway, commented on the move:
“The application for ABS status demonstrates the law school’s commitment to continued innovation which enhances our students learning experience, and shows Nottingham Trent University’s commitment in supporting access to justice in its civic and community role.”
And law school director Nick Johnson added that the enhanced status would allow “students at all levels of the law school … to gain experience of professional practice in the same way that medical students currently do at teaching hospitals.”
He added that, if successful, the bid to become an ABS would see work in a fully regulated law firm become a standard part of Nottingham students’ education.