Co-op prepares to access ‘every court in the land’ with new bar panel

Co-operative Legal Services (CLS), the largest company to be granted an ABS licence, has created a roster of barristers chambers that it will use for family work after launching a fixed-fee service last month (20 September 2012).

Christina Blacklaws
Christina Blacklaws

CLS has awarded contracts to five sets across the country that have agreed fixed-fee deals with the company.

Manchester-headquartered St John’s Buildings and Nottingham-based St Mary’s Chambers have been instructed in the north, while 3 Paper Buildings has picked up the remit for Bristol and London alongside 4 Paper Buildings and 14 Gray’s Inn in London.

“Our aim was to get coverage for every court in the land and that is what we asked the bar to tender for,” said CLS director Christina Blacklaws.

The sets had to demonstrate that they were able to work on a fixed-fee basis as well as being able to subscribe to Co-op’s ethical values, she added.

“We’ve negotiated with chambers and come up with a product we feel is fair to our clients and fair to them,” Blacklaws continued. “We have clear service level agreements about how we prepare cases and what’s expected of us.”

CLS unveiled plans to recruit 3,000 lawyers as part of its assault on the legal profession in May (24 May 2012). Blacklaws said she anticipated that a family service would be offered in all its branches and should it prove a success the chambers panel could be enlarged to accommodate demand.

“The real issue is the lack of justice for ordinary people in this country,” she said. “Most people can’t afford the top lawyers. There’s a real fear around the cost of accessing lawyers and legal services. We aim to be transparent and offer that fixed-fee service.”

CLS was among the first to be granted an ABS licence having long held ambitions to break into the legal sector (2 March 2012).