The Co-op made history today when it became the first major consumer brand to be granted alternative business structure (ABS) status under the new Legal Services Act. This means that the Co-op Legal Services can offer the complete suite of consumer legal services which until now was only available from a firm of solicitors.
Part of the Co-op Group, Co-op Legal Services was set up in 2006 and provides its customers with a range of expert legal advice and services that was limited to certain areas of personal injury claims; will writing; probate and estate administration; and employment law.
Now it has been granted an ABS license by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, it plans to offer a full range of consumer legal services in the near future and will enter the family law market later this year.
Eddie Ryan, Managing Director of Co-op Legal Services, said:
"When the Legal Services Act was first drafted it was envisaged that its enactment would enable consumer brands to enter the closed world of legal services, so this is an historic occasion not only for Co-op Legal Services but for all customers needing access to legal services in the UK."
"We believe that the presence of Co-op’s trusted brand and values, together with a combination of first class products and services, will provide customers with greater accessibility to expert legal advice and better value for money."
"This move is a natural extension to the range of professional services we currently provide within the Co-op, which includes banking, pharmacy and Funeralcare. Our customers already receive market leading levels of service in these areas and our Legal Services business will follow in the same vain."
"We are committed to playing a leading role in this new era by offering straightforward value-for-money expert legal services, backed by an ethos of social responsibility and a level of protection that can be provided by a diverse, multi-billion pound organisation.”
To mark the occasion Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly MP visited Co-op Legal Services in Bristol to talk to staff and customers about the reforms. He said:
"This is a huge milestone for UK legal services and the future of Alternative Business Structures."
"ABSs introduce more competition in the market place, delivering competitive pricing, higher standards of product and more choice for the consumer."
"Our UK legal services are unrivalled around the world and these changes will allow them to reach new heights, as solicitors’ firms develop new markets, seek external investment and join up with other businesses to offer different products to consumers and provide opportunities for growth.”
Co-op Legal Services, will now continue to increase the range of expert legal advice it offers its customers’ needs and build upon its team of over 450 highly trained staff with the first phase of a major recruitment drive, which will see at least 150 more employees join this year, and ensure that the Co-op is one of the largest, and most recognised, providers of expert Legal Services in its market.