The Co-operative has this week broken new ground by offering face-to-face legal services, combined with financial services advice, through the Britannia bank.
If the pilot scheme taking place in three Bristol branches over the next two weeks is successful, it could mean legal services being delivered through 350 branches of the Britannia and the Co-operative Bank together with financial services.
It is the first formal indication that a high street presence is on Co-operative Legal Services’ (CLS) agenda, in addition to working on the phone and via the Internet.
CLS has already made clear its intention to apply to become an alternative business structure at the earliest opportunity.
The pilot is offering free legal advice to consumers who “drop-in” and to those who want an appointment.
The results of the pilot, taking place in conjunction with Co-operative Financial Services (CFS), will then be analysed and used to help CLS formulate its future strategy. CFS merged with Britannia in 2009.
CLS managing director Eddie Ryan said: “We believe that the presence of the Co-operative’s trusted brand in the market place, together with our combination of first class products and services, provides customers with both greater accessibility and better value for money.”
Rod Bulmer, managing director, retail at CFS, added: “There are nearly 350 branches of Britannia and the Co-operative Bank across the UK, so this pilot scheme will enable us to assess how legal services can be delivered on the high street. If successful, there is clearly great potential to bring these services under one roof.”
CLS launched in August 2006 and now employs more than 380 staff, delivering a turnover in 2010 of nearly £25m. It currently works on personal injury claims, will writing, probate and estate administration, conveyancing and employment law.
Mr Ryan said the shake-up delivered by the Legal Services Act is “absolutely necessary if legal services are to become more accessible to customers. Many people feel that solicitors communicate with them poorly, use jargon that is confusing and don’t understand how services are priced”.