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Co-op to recruit 'large numbers of solicitors' for fixed-price family service

3 November 2011

Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) has announced that it will be applying for an ABS licence to offer fixed-price family law services and recruiting "large numbers of solicitors".

The new service will be headed by Christina Blacklaws (pictured), partner at TV Edwards and chair of the Law Society’s legal affairs and policy board, who became a director of CLS earlier this week.

She said CLS intended to create a fixed-price family law service, providing both online and face-to-face advice, and aiming particularly at clients earning from £15,000 to £40,000 p.a.

She said that, once the service was launched next year, the Co-op would be recruiting “large numbers of solicitors” but could not say how many.

Blacklaws said nothing would happen until CLS was licensed as an ABS by the SRA, which could come as soon as January. She said the earliest launch date for new service would be the middle of next year.

“We have the opportunity to create from a blank piece of paper a new way of delivering family law services,” she said.

“The Co-op is a trusted brand already and significant provider of other financial and professional services.”

Blacklaws said a “range of delivery mechanisms” would be used but face-to-face advice would be offered at fixed prices.

“The public is demanding to know what they are going to pay for and what they are going to get. We want to meet the needs of the public and the Co-op’s six million members.

“There are a lot of people who are not eligible for legal aid but not wealthy enough to buy legal services for an hourly rate.”

However, Blacklaws, who has been a legal aid lawyer for 24 years, said she hoped some of those who would no longer be eligible for legal aid as a result of the government’s cuts could afford to come to the Co-op.

“This is not about giving up, it is about recognising that access to justice is broader than funding.”

Jenny Beck, managing partner of TV Edwards, will be head of professional practice at the CLS family law unit while Chris May, head of business development and strategy at TV Edwards, will be in charge of operations.

Blackshaw said she and Beck would remain partners at TV Edwards until 30 June 2012, when they would become consultants. Meanwhile the three-strong management team of the CLS family unit will be spending some of its time at a Co-op building in the City.

CLS currently employs more than 400 staff, offering personal injury, will-writing, probate and estate administration, conveyancing and employment services.

Its aim is to become the preferred provider of consumer legal services in the UK.