BT moves into legal services as ABS licence comes through

BT has become one of the largest UK companies to launch a legal services arm, with the telecoms giant today (4 March) awarded its alternative business structure (ABS) licence by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA).

BT Law launches today to provide legal services to corporate customers, initially in the motor claims market. It will incorporate BT Claims, the company’s motor claims management group, which handles more than 35,000 corporate fleet vehicles.

The company will cover all motor claims matters from incident notification to investigation and resolution and litigation management.

BT said it plans to grow the service to other types of work, potentially including public liability and employment law.

BT Law, which will be based in London, Bletchley and Sheffield, will be led by Miles Jobling who becomes director of BT Law in addition to continuing to serve BT Group’s head of litigation and employment.

“The advent of ABS has changed forever the whole landscape of legal services,” said Jobling. “With our experience and market credibility we had already built a team with significant legal and claims handling expertise.

“This licence now gives us the perfect platform to take this much further forward and means we can deliver whole new areas of support for our existing clients as well as hopefully developing many new relationships. As we carry the BT name we understand just how important it is to best represent and protect our clients’ brands, which will remain as a main component of our service strategy.”

“BT Law is a welcome addition to the legal services market,” said SRA executive director Samantha Barrass. “The SRA has now licensed more than 100 ABSs and this number continues to grow, which means more choice for customers.”

The ABS licence comes after BT’s recent £64.2m acquisition of Tikit, a company that provides technology solutions and services to legal and accountancy firms.

ABS licences allow companies and law firms to offer legal activities to businesses and the public, with lawyers and non-lawyers able to manage and control the business, as well as allowing external investment.

In December, 23 companies – including Knights Solicitors, Quindell Legal Services and Cherie Booth QC’s legal consultancy Omnia Strategy – were granted ABS status.

In 2011-12, BT posted revenues of £18.9bn, with profit before taxation of £2.46bn. Separately, Jobling is concluding an overhaul of its external roster of UK law firms, with media law specialists Wiggin and Sheridans joining existing panel firms Bird & Bird, CMS Cameron McKenna and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer on the core panel.