‘Three ring’ promise from Co-op family law
Clients phoning the Co-operative’s new family law service will receive a response from a trained lawyer ‘within three rings’, a director of the service promised today.
Jenny Beck, head of professional practice, said that telephone calls would be answered by trained lawyers, rather than a phone bank, and clients would deal with a nominated lawyer.
Beck was speaking at an event to launch Co-operative Legal Services’ foray into family law. Executives said the new service is not looking to ‘steal the lunch’ of high street law firms, but rather to open up the legal market and help more people access services. Co-operative became the first major consumer brand to be granted alternative business structure status under the changes introduced by the Legal Services Act 2007.
Its family law unit is led by Law Society council member for child care and former TV Edwards partner Christina Blacklaws, with Jenny Beck as fellow director.
The Co-op will provide the full range of family law services, including divorce, child protection, mediation and financial issues at fixed fees from 25 staff, of which 23 are lawyers based initially in Paddington, London. The service has a licence to provide face-to-face advice for the Westminster legal aid procurement area and will apply for other licences in the next tender round.
Co-operative Legal Services, which was set up in 2006 employs around 500 staff, 281 of which are lawyers. Martyn Wates, deputy chief executive said today: ‘People think that baked beans and legal services don’t go together, but this is a natural extension of our other professional services.’
He said: ‘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.’
Beck said: ‘We’re not stealing the lunch of high street lawyers. There is such a huge gulf between the people that access legal services and those that currently do not. We hope to actually open the market and help more people access legal services, so that there will be make more work for all family lawyers,’ she said.
To publicise the launch of its new service the Co-operative published an report showing that for the first time, the number of cohabiting couples with children in the UK equals that of married couples with children.