The Co-op – which yesterday received  its alternative business structure (ABS) licence – is to provide legal services through its banking network as it seeks to challenge the “legal postcode lottery”, it has announced.
Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) now employs nearly 500 people and saw its profits jump 15% to £4.5m, according to the business’s 2011 results. It has been piloting face-to-face advice in addition to the services currently provided from its base in Bristol – which justice minister Jonathan Djanogly visited yesterday to mark the award of the ABS licence.
The Co-op’s annual statement, released today, said: “The legal services business has already been putting its principles into practice with a pilot scheme to offer wills, estate planning, probate and bereavement advice, and funeral plans in 30 Co-operati
ve Bank branches.
“The pilot has shown the value of collaboration across Co-operative businesses (which lies at the heart of Project Unity) and will now be rolled out nationwide, while the service proposition will be enhanced to further customer needs and provide them with broader benefits from Co-operative services.”
The Co-op already has over 300 bank branches, including the Britannia, and is the preferred bidder for 632 Lloyds branches as well.
The statement said: “Legal Services’ strategy, in the wake of the deregulation of the legal services market, is to provide consistent, competitive legal advice to the ordinary person, backed by our scale, reputation, systems, service standards and training…
“We aim to provide Co-operative members and customers with accessible, high-quality legal advice and services at a competitive price, challenging the legal ‘postcode lottery’.”
Last year CLS recruited three prominent family lawyers to launch a family law service, which it will do later this year. It confirmed yesterday that this will involve fixed-fee services and legal aid work. It is in the middle of a recruitment campaign for the family and other teams.
Christina Blacklaws, a director of Co-operative Legal Services, will be speaking at next month’s Legal Futures Conference. For details, click here .