BPIF expands legal service after law changes

Richard Stuart-Turner
Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The BPIF has become the first trade association to operate its own law firm, following a raft of recent legal changes that have allowed the move to happen.

Changes have widened the permitted methods of the provision of legal services meaning that any organisation that passes the stringent tests set by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) can set up as a law firm.

The BPIF has now completed those tests, is fully licensed and launched its new entity, BPIF Legal, at the beginning of January.

The operation will be staffed by three solicitors employed by the BPIF and will provide legal services to BPIF members.

Head of legal Anne Copley said: “Previously the SRA had rules that said in-house lawyers working in trade associations could only advise their members and not charge them for doing so. That meant we had to restrict what we could do otherwise we would run into resource issues very quickly.

“In order to properly service all our members we would probably need 15 or 20 lawyers, which is why it's always been very restricted. Members do get some legal services as part of their membership but that is restricted.

“Being able to charge frees us up to have an income stream that we can plough back into employing lawyers or bringing in more resources so that we can increase our services throughout the BPIF membership."

BPIF Legal will offer a range of legal services dealing with employment and commercial issues at competitive rates, and always on a fixed fee basis.

“The main bugbear when considering using a solicitor is the ‘dripping roast’ nature of the relationship so that the client has no clear idea of the fees they may incur. We will completely remove that uncertainty,” said Copley.

BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold added: “The BPIF's existing expert legal team will now be able to apply their highly relevant sector experience in helping our members, in a manner that they were not allowed to previously.

“We've had to meet extremely stringent criteria to be able to do this, so it's tangible recognition of the professionalism and forward thinking that is a hallmark of the association.

“A recent study indicated that SMEs are losing out through a lack of access to relevant cost-effective legal advice, costing an estimated £14,000 per event, so this will be of real value to our members.’’

BPIF Legal Plus member Barry Curryer, operations director at BCQ, said: “I have been very impressed by the BPIF legal services over the years, and have never quite understood the restrictions placed upon Anne Copley and her team.

“Being able to use lawyers with a profound understanding of my own industry is of huge benefit, and I am very pleased that I will now be able to work more closely with them.”

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