Well, who would have thought it. Weeks of high profile campaigning on ABS and the result is a virtual dead heat.

Michael Scanlan of SLAS was right to say that the 24 vote majority in favour of ABS does not provide any clear mandate. At the same time it has to be put in the scales alongside whatever transpires at the adjourned SGM next week. The profession has shown itself too divided on the issue for either side to be ignored in attempting to fashion a way forward.

Now we also have the McGrigors amendment to put to the SGM. That would allow a level of external investment, and presumably also ownership by any individuals whether or not connected with the firm, provided solicitors, with or without other regulated professionals, remain in majority control. While some of those who have supported the SLAS motion have expressed a willingness at least to consider minority non-lawyer ownership by others working in a practice, this goes some way further, while still purporting to safeguard professional independence by keeping control wthin the business.

My guess is that if there is an agreed movement towards ABS, it will not go that far. What is probably more significant is that it is expressly stated to be a compromise proposal designed to allow the profession to go forward on a largely unified basis. We have not heard enough of that sort of language in recent weeks, but there is no better time to start. Hopefully the sentiments will be shared on both sides of the divide and some basis for progress identified.