Falling revenue from personal injury work is the reason for the £5.1m loss announced by Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) yesterday, managing director Matt Howells has said.
In response to a 64% decline in revenue over the past year, CLS has revealed that it is now restricting its personal injury services to Co-op insurance clients and those with serious injuries.
Mr Howells told Legal Futures that revenue from both wills and family law services had doubled in the course of the past year.
He said that probate work, which with wills accounts for around half of CLS’s income, had performed “exceptionally” well in achieving a 5% growth in revenue despite the declining death rate in the UK.
“Our performance was beyond market expectation, and nine out of 10 of our customers are happy with our service,” he said. Mr Howells added that although historically the Co-op had offered estate administration clients the full process, they were now also offering a “grant-only” product.
He said that CLS had worked “exceptionally hard” to build up its fixed-fee family law services and there was demand across the country for “an alternative way” of servicing the market. Only around 20 to 30% of family law clients were Co-op members.
Meanwhile, Caoilionn Hurley, CLS finance director, said personal injury staff numbers had halved in the course of the past year to around 50 to 60. She said that, following a review of its strategy, CLS had decided to focus entirely on working with clients referred by the Co-op’s insurance business and/or people who are seriously injured.
On conveyancing, Mr Howells described the current service offered by CLS, outsourced to Leeds-based law firm Blacks, as “in its infancy” and said a new partner could be brought on board to help provide an enhanced offering. “We need to have a presence fairly quickly,” Mr Howells said.
Asked whether CLS as a brand had been damaged by negative publicity about the group, Mr Howells said: “The Co-op is an exceptionally resilient brand. The challenges have had an impact – it would be wrong to say that hasn’t been the case.
“But it is still a trusted brand that consumers trust in and believe. Historically this has been the key linchpin of our success.”