Christina Blacklaws, who has spearheaded the development of Co-operative Legal Services (CLS), left the alternative business structure (ABS) at the end of last month, Legal Futures can reveal.
Her departure to set up an ABS consultancy will be seen as a major blow to CLS, whose future as the poster child of ABSs has been clouded by the crisis that has engulfed the Co-operative Group, mainly due to its banking operation.
Ms Blacklaws told Legal Futures that she was setting up a consultancy that would “support other businesses, charities and not-for-profits to set up successful ABSs; assist with their strategic approach; better understand their position, opportunities and risks in the developing market; or just help on their consumer offerings”.
She will continue with her public appointments and representative roles – she has been a member of the Law Society council since 2002, and sits on the Family Justice Council.
Ms Blacklaws declined to explain the reasons for her departure from CLS, but said “I do, genuinely, wish them well”.
A CLS spokesman said: “We would like to thank Christina for her contribution to CLS and the development of our family law practice. We wish her well in her future career.”
In what was a major coup at the time , she and Jenny Beck – both senior family lawyers – left London law firm TV Edwards  in November 2011 to become CLS’s director of policy and head of professional practice respectively. They were behind the launch of CLS’s family law service  last year in the wake of April’s legal aid cuts. CLS was one of the first three legal businesses to become ABSs in March 2012.
The problems at the Co-operative Group, which intensified today with the resignation of Lord Myners from its board, have led to questions being raised about the risk of ‘group contagion’ affecting the legal practice – a new risk of the ABS era identified by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
However, speaking at last November’s Legal Futures conference, Ms Blacklaws expressed confidence  that the problems with the bank – as they were then known – would not have an impact on the growth of CLS.
She emphasised the group’s commitment to the legal services market and said that “from next year legal services are going to take an even greater place in the shop window of the Co-operative Group”.
The Co-op is due to announce its delayed 2013 results next Thursday.