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Summary: The Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) has been made the first consumer company in the UK to have ABS status.

In what is a momentous decision, The Co-operative Legal Services has yesterday (March 28th) been made the first major consumer brand to receive alternative business structure (ABS) status.

Companies across the country have been applying for an ABS licence under the new structure, created under the new Legal Services Act. The Co-operative Legal Services is the first major consumer brand to be granted such a status and can now offer additional services.

The move is expected to open up the legal profession and increase competitiveness in the sector - a fact that has been recognised by justice minister Jonathan Djanogly.

Under the changes, The Co-operative Legal Services will be able to offer services to the consumer in areas it has not previously been able to.

The company will also move into family law later in the year to enhance its product range and confirming CLS it as one of the leading legal services providers in the country.

The Co-operative Legal Services will now build on its team of 450 legal staff by creating at least 150 jobs this year - making the company one of the largest and well known consumerlegal experts in the sector.

Eddie Ryan, Managing Director of The Co-operative Legal Services, said: "When the Legal Services Act was first drafted it was envisaged that its enactment would enable consumer brands to enter the closed world of legal services, so this is an historic occasion not only for The Co-operative Legal Services but for all customers needing access to legal services in the UK.

"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 expert legal advice and better value for money.

"We are committed to playing a leading role in this new era by offering straightforward value-for-money expert legal services, backed by an ethos of social responsibility and a level of protection that can be provided by a diverse, multi-billion pound organisation.”

Established in 2006, The Co-operative Legal Services is part of The Co-operative Group and already provides a wide range of expert legal advice and services.

Consumers continue to turn to The Co-operative in recognition of its reputation as a dependable and fair service provider, that is grounded in a rich history of supporting people.

Being able to move to an ABS structure is a natural progression for the Group that already offers financial services, pharmacy and funeral services.

In recognition of the historical moment, justice minister Jonathan Djanogly visited The Co-operative Legal Services in Bristol to discuss the adoption of the ABS structure.

He said: "This is a huge milestone for UK legal services and the future of Alternative Business Structures.

"ABSs introduce more competition in the market place, delivering competitive pricing, higher standards of product and more choice for the consumer.

"Our UK legal services are unrivalled around the world and these changes will allow them to reach new heights, as solicitors' firms develop new markets, seek external investment and join up with other businesses to offer different products to consumers and provide opportunities for growth."

Ministers expect ABS to encourage greater innovation across the UK's legal sector. Legal services already contribute to two per cent of the country's gross domestic product and could be key in encouraging future growth.

For more information contact: Date: 28 March 2012

Dave Smith
The Co-operative Group Press Office
Tel: 0161 827 5614
Mob: 07702 152771

Lindsay Colbeck
Senior PR Officer
0161 827 5629
07713 267499


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