Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) has issued a major signal of intent by recruiting two leading solicitors to launch a family law service next year.
Jenny Beck, managing partner of London legal aid firm TV Edwards and co-chair of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, and fellow TV Edwards partner Christina Blacklaws, who chairs the Law Society’s legal affairs and policy board, have been recruited along with solicitor Chris May, the firm’s former head of business development and strategy.
Ms Blacklaws, who is also the Law Society council member for child care law, began work this week as a director of CLS to develop the service; both she and Ms Beck will remain as partners of TV Edwards until next July, whereafter they will become consultants.
CLS has long been committed to being in the first wave of alternative business structures (ABSs) when the Solicitors Regulation Authority begins licensing them. Its stated aim is to become consumers’ lawyers of choice.
CLS will offer the full range of family law services through a variety of channels, including face to face. CLS may bid for a legal aid contract, but Ms Blacklaws told Legal Futures that in any case the service “will be both innovative and pioneering, and address current unmet legal need. This offers us the opportunity to provide access to justice on a much larger scale”. Fixed fees will be a key part of the offer from CLS.
She emphasised that the practice will be “committed to the highest professional standards” and urged solicitors to see ABSs as “a really good news story for the profession”.
Mr May said CLS will provide “opportunities for young lawyers who can develop their own careers as well as being open to experienced practitioners whose skills will be required to provide the more complex and demanding areas of work”.
Ms Beck added: “The Co-operative’s socially responsible and ethical approach is totally aligned with our own and we are delighted to have this opportunity to bring their shared values and principles to the practice of family law. The Co-operative is a trusted brand and will be a trusted adviser. In doing so, we will aim to secure access to justice for all at a time when public funded services are contracting”
CLS managing director Eddie Ryan said: “We are working extremely hard with the Solicitors Regulation Authority in preparation for the introduction of ABSs and we look forward to being able to provide a full range of legal services to our members and customers.”
Martyn Wates, deputy group chief executive of The Co-operative Group, said: “The Legal Services Act will change the way in which legal services are delivered in England and Wales.
“We believe that the presence of The Co-operative’s trusted brand and values in the market place, together with a combination of first class products and services, will provide customers with greater accessibility to legal advice and better value for money.”
See blog: The Co-op and the “halo effect”