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Co-op vows to be ABS pioneer with 3 January application

7 December 2011

Co-operative Legal Services, the legal services arm of the Co-op, will apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority to become an alternative business structure on 3 January, the day the SRA will start considering ABS applications.

In a statement this morning The Co-op confirmed its intention, publicly disclosed when the Legal Services Act 2007 became law, that it would seek to be among the first organisations to apply for ABS status.

To the chagrin of many aspiring ABSs and potential investors, the SRA only became an ABS licensing authority after a parliamentary order on 1 December which will take effect on 23 December, more than two months after the official go-live date for ABS on 6 October.

At the time only one regulator, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, was in a position to apply for – and obtained – ABS licensing authorisation.

Today’s announcement by The Co-op confirms the retailer’s determination to join the ranks of ABS pioneers despite the unexpected departure last week of CLS architect James Gulliford.

Both Gulliford and current CLS managing director Eddie Ryan joined The Co-op from RAC Legal Services in 2006.

Ryan said the Legal Services Act would change the way in which legal services are delivered in England and Wales and that The Co-op was “looking forward to playing a leading role in the new era”.

He went on: “We believe that the presence of The Co-operative’s trusted brand and values together with a combination of first-class products and services will provide customers with greater accessibility to legal advice and better value for money.”

“We are working extremely hard with the Solicitors Regulation Authority in preparation for the introduction of ABSs and we look forward to being licensed so that we can provide a full range of legal services to our members and customers.”

CLS has grown to 400 staff since it was set up in 2006 and offers a range of legal services including personal injury, will writing, probate and estate administration, conveyancing and employment law.

Last month it announced it would enter the family law market next year. The new service, to be headed by veteran legal aid family lawyer Christina Blacklaws, promises to offer fixed-price advice both online and face-to-face for clients in the £15,000 to £40,000 income bracket.

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