The Co-operative Group today reported that its legal services division bounced back into the black last year, ending a tumultuous period of instability.

Co-operative Legal Services posted a £700,000 underlying operating profit for the year ended 2 January 2016, following a £5m loss the previous year.

Turnover fell from £21m to £18m, although the business said this was ‘in line with our plans’ as it refocused the business back to ‘core service propositions’.

The number of staff employed in the legal services division rose 5% to 355. Customer satisfaction was measured at 88%, a figure which was flat year on year.

The headcount figure does not take account of the acquisition in December 2015 of Collective Legal Solutions, which added 100 associates and support staff to work in wills, trust and estate planning.

Group chair Allan Leighton said the legal business, along with food, funerals, general insurance and electrical, has been upgraded in the past year 'to improve the product and customer experience'.

The Co-op said: ‘We aim to give people an outstanding service and in 2015 we took important steps towards improving our ability to do so.

‘We appointed new experienced heads of probate, family law and personal injury to strengthen the legal services management team, and help us to develop our services and improve member loyalty. When added to investments being made in digital technology, they’ll help us to meet the needs and interests of our members across the UK.’

The legal business said it will have a new website from later this year, with further enhancements planned to allow easier engagement with clients.

It also disclosed that did not renew family legal aid contracts which come to an end in 2016, as developing these services ‘required significant investment’. Co-op Legal also said it is 'too early' to assess the full impact of the personal injury reforms proposed by chancellor George Osborne in the Autumn Statement, which it acknowledged would 'significantly change the market'. 

Matt Howells, managing director of Co-op Legal Services, said the results were in line with expectations and reflected the work of his leadership team in the last three years.

‘[Before 2013] We made some very bold statements and our view as a new management team was about resetting those expectations.

‘The market is fragmented and we do believe there is a place for the Co-op and what we are about.

‘It is about being consistent and our approach is not that we don’t have ambition, it is just realistic ambition.’