Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) is planning a more extensive pilot of face-to-face advice in its bank branches later this year as it bids to become consumers’ “lawyer of choice”, the company has confirmed.
In June CLS ran a two-week pilot , combining legal and financial services advice, in three branches of Britannia bank in Bristol.
A Co-op spokesman told Legal Futures: “We are still assessing the results of our initial pilot scheme in Bristol in June with a view to widening the pilot later this year but at this stage the exact plans have not yet been finalised.” In total, there are 350 branches of the Britannia and the Co-operative Bank.
He would not be drawn on how crucial CLS saw face-to-face advice as part of the offering to customers, who are currently serviced through a call centre in Bristol: “We are looking at how we can build on our customer service offering post ABS but at this stage the exact mix has yet to be finalised.”
CLS has committed to applying  to become an alternative business structure at the earliest opportunity, and the Co-op’s first-half 2011 results, published yesterday, said “this will allow the business to provide a full suite of consumer legal services with the aim of becoming the consumer’s lawyer of choice”.
It revealed that CLS has recently been merged with the Co-op’s Life Planning service – which includes the funeral business – “to capitalise on the imminent opening up of the legal services market”.
It said the merger “will provide an opportunity to enhance our combined partner propositions, optimise our third-party B2B relationships and enable us to cross-sell our products and services more effectively. We will be launching new distribution channels in the second half of the year and expect to continue our strong performance”.
CLS now has more than 400 staff and saw revenues rise 22% in the first six months of 2011, with profit up 3%. In the full year of 2010, turnover grew 19.2% to £24.2m, with profits largely static at £3.9m.