Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) has today launched its much-touted family law operation in London, offering services on a fixed fee as standard.
CLS, which was one of the first three alternative business structures, has so far recruited 22 fee-earners. They will primarily be available by telephone, but clients can have face-to-face consultations at the team’s offices in Paddington as well.
The service – which covers all areas of family law, including legally aided work – will be rolled out nationally as CLS develops the five regional hubs it is planning for England and Wales as part of its plans to create 3,000 new posts  in less than five years.
An initial consultation – including telephone advice, confirmed in writing, and a follow-up call to clarify any issues – costs £175. Other examples of fees are £250 for a parental responsibility agreement, £475 for a managed undefended divorce, £550 for a ‘living together’ agreement, and £950 for a pre-nuptial agreement.
CLS is also offering to support DIY divorce petitioners. A basic £99 package includes a step-by-step guide on how to handle a divorce with all the necessary forms to complete. For an extra £50, this can be upgraded to include the checking of all documents before submission to the court, or for £150 petitioners can get the check service and one hour’s advice.
It has published a customer charter which sets out the five core standards, including fixed fees, a commitment to help clients reach the best possible outcome for themselves and their family, to handle all cases with sensitivity and jargon-free communications to ensure ease of understanding.
CLS will offer mediation through a new partnership with National Family Mediation, the only voluntary sector provider of mediation, which delivers 65% of all publicly funded mediation; it has 47 services throughout England and Wales.
Martyn Wates, deputy group chief executive of The Co-operative Group, said: “As a trusted, ethical and approachable provider offering real value for money we intend to bring a refreshingly different approach to family law.
“At a time of major changes in legal aid, we believe it’s vital to make it as easy as possible for people to gain access to justice. We are doing this by providing an innovative approach that will appeal to those who are currently reluctant to access family law services.
”It is our vision to develop a family law service which will provide a reassuring and trusted option for consumers. These are challenging times for both consumer and the legal profession but we intend our new range of services to be easily accessible and affordable.”