Co-operative Legal Services (CLS), the first consumer brand to enter the legal services market as an alternative business structure (ABS), has posted flat profits for the year.
In annual results for the 52 weeks ended 3 January, the legal services arm reported profit of £1.5m (unchanged from 2016) on revenue of £25m – up from £22m (13.6%). The company attributed the increased revenue to handling more than 16,000 cases in 2017, 321 more than the previous year.
It is the ABS’s first set of results since it integrated its legal services business with its Funeralcare service to create a new Life Planning Division.
Combined income was £343m, up £14m on 2016. Operating profit, which includes property and business disposals, was £66m, down £35m on the previous year. CLS said this was ’mostly due to the sale of our crematoria’.
CLS was one of the first three ABSs licensed by the SRA in 2012 and was seen to be the pioneer for the new wave of non-legal entrants attracted to the sector following the Legal Services Act.
But the firm posted multi-million-pound losses in subsequent years, admitting that it grew ‘too fast’.
A new board led by managing director Matt Howells, who joined from Barclays, was appointed in 2014 to rebuild the business.
Howells said today: ‘These results demonstrate continued progress in bringing together our Funeralcare, Legal Services and Life Planning business, offering a comprehensive set of later life products and services to members and customers’
Separately, CLS said today it had agreed a deal to purchase Simplify Probate, the UK’s second largest provider of probate. The company, part of the Simplify Group of companies, has been a specialist provider of probate and estate administration for more than 25 years.
Howells added: ‘This acquisition underpins our long-term ambition to grow our life planning business, providing greater access to regulated estate planning services and a faster and more transparent way of delivering probate. In 2018 we’ll continue to grow the legal and life planning part of our business. We’ll focus on new ways to bring our products and services to market, while investing in keeping our services transparent and accessible at all times.’