Hudson: Co-op didn’t invent client service

The Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) has disassociated itself from comments made by its sales and marketing director that putting consumers at the heart of what they do is “alien” to solicitors, after complaints by the Law Society.

Speaking about the launch of CLS’s first television advertising campaign, Ian Mackie was quoted in Marketing Week as saying: “We’ve done a lot of research and talked to a lot of customers about their fears and anxieties of using legal services and talking to solicitors.

“They worry if they can trust the advice, or if they’re being ripped off or the jargon makes them feel small. We understand that. It’s a natural thing for the Co-op to put the customer at the heart of our plans. For a solicitor it’s an alien approach.”

In a letter to Marketing Week, Law Society chief executive Des Hudson said: “The Co-op may provide additional choice for consumers, thanks to their powerful brand and the expertise of their employed solicitors.

“However, in his enthusiasm, Ian Mackie seems to suggest the Co-op have invented client service. They didn’t. Solicitor firms of many shapes and sizes have been providing excellent service, including in many cases, fixed price or free initial advice to their clients, for many years. Many also give countless hours of free advice and representation to the most needy in our Society.

“Mr Mackie’s ignorance of this new area of work for the Co-op may be excusable but bad-mouthing a profession, members of which you employ, isn’t going to win credibility in this market (or any other). I invite him to withdraw his comments. He might like to begin to make amends by apologising to every solicitor employed by the Co-op.”

In a statement, Steven Round, CLS’s chief operating officer, said: “The comments are completely wrong and in no way reflect the position of The Co-operative Legal Services and we wholeheartedly respect and support the profession. We work very closely with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Law Society in an effort to promote and protect the interests of the profession.

“Our business is built on making the legal profession as accessible as possible to ensure that the public can easily seek and gain legal advice. In addition we already employ over 100 solicitors, and in September we will be launching a legal academy which will open up training and educational opportunities within the legal profession to our new and existing staff.”

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