Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) is eyeing up partnerships to boost its probate and estate planning work after announcing a record year as an alternative business structure (ABS).
CLS saw revenue grow nearly 15% to £40.1m in 2019, with profit jumping 165% from £2.3m to £6.1m.
The business has recovered steadily since reporting a £9m operating loss in 2013. Turnover – which reached a high of £33m in 2012, the year it became an ABS – hit a low of £18m in 2015.
In March 2018, CLS bought Simplify Probate, then the UK’s second largest provider of probate, and in announcing the group results, the Co-op said the increases reflected “strong growth in probate together with operational improvements that have accelerated progression of cases”.
Building partnerships with other businesses “has been a key aspect of the growth” of CLS, it continued, and last October saw an agreement with the Institute of Professional Will-writers (IPW) for its 1,000-plus members to refer their clients to CLS when they need probate.
“This will be an important new relationship for us, especially as IPW were previously working with one of our competitors.
“We’re currently in talks with several well-known businesses about how our services can help their customers with probate or estate planning. We expect to make more announcements during 2020 as we begin to rapidly expand our growth through a business to business strategy.”
The Co-op added that the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak saw an increase in demand for will-writing services.
The group stressed the importance of technology in its legal offering. Last year, CLS won the Excellence in Technology and Innovation award at the Law Society’s Excellence Awards, recognising its family law team’s approach to digital technology.
It has now introduced a new proprietary client service platform for its estate planning business, while the probate business rolled out a cloud-based client service platform “which keeps partners in touch with case progress through the key stages of case management”.
“We’re committed to significant future technology investments and have plans for several cloud-based applications.”
Caoilionn Hurley, managing director of Co-op Legal Services, said: “I’m extremely pleased with our performance in 2019. We’ve seen a significant increase in sales across our estate planning, probate and family practice areas, which is evidenced by our strong underlying growth in revenue and profit.
“Our customer satisfaction and colleague engagement scores improved in 2019, reflecting our continued commitment to service quality and our colleagues.
“Furthermore, our share of the probate market has increased year on year, further cementing our position as leader in the UK market.
“We’ve taken a major step forward as a business in 2019 and are well placed to deal with the challenges presented by the personal injury small claims reforms.”