Co-op pledges “no nasty surprises” as it launches fixed-fee family law operation

Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) has launched its family law operation offering fixed fees for services such as divorce, child protection, mediation and financial issues.

The team of 22 solicitors will be based in London offering “jargon-free” advice over the phone as the major consumer brand begins its push into the legal profession on the back of the Legal Services Act.

The Co-operative Group’s legal arm CLS was amongst the first to be granted alternative business structure (ABS) in March and it aims to revolutionise how legal services are accessed on the high street by creating 3,000 jobs in the sector (28 March 2012).

The initial family law team is being led by former legal aid firm TV Edwards’ managing partner Jenny Beck and partner Christina Blacklaws

The retail giant will expand with five regional hubs and is targeting young lawyers to fill the 3,000 newly created roles, 90 per cent of which are legal functions and the rest support staff (24 May 2012).

The Co-op’s family law customer charter is promising a detailed, itemised quote from the start and fixed fee, rather than the traditional model of hourly billing.

It also pledges “no nasty surprises” or “jargon” and for customers to be treated individually, with care and sensitivity towards the best possible outcome.

Martyn Wates, deputy group chief executive of The Co-operative Group, said: “As a trusted, ethical and approachable provider offering real value for money we intend to bring a refreshingly different approach to family law. At a time of major changes in legal aid, we believe it’s vital to make it as easy as possible for people to gain access to justice. We are doing this by providing an innovative approach that will appeal to those who are currently reluctant to access family law services.

“This move is a natural extension to the range of professional services we currently provide within the Co-operative which includes banking, pharmacy and Funeralcare. Our customers already receive market leading levels of service in these areas and our legal services business is following in the same vein.

”It is our vision to develop a family law service which will provide a reassuring and trusted option for consumers. These are challenging times for both consumer and the legal profession but we intend our new range of services to be easily accessible and affordable.”

Eddie Ryan, former CLS managing director, retired this summer after establishing the legal arm of the group and driving through the ABS licence. The Co-op has yet to name his successor.