On Thursday 20th September Co-operative Legal officially launched their Family Law Services. This is the next stage in the Co-operative's bid to take on the legal market, taking the brand to the forefront of the high street. As one of the first to be approved under the Alternative Business Structures model (ABS), Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) have piloted themselves as 'producing more competition in the market place, delivering competitive pricing, higher standards of product and more choices for the consumer.'
Will picking up legal advice with a weekly shop really be the next stage of development for the legal market? Eddie Ryan, formerly the Managing Director of CLS, has stated introducing legal services in this way is set to be a "historic occasion, which gives accessibility and value for money whilst generally tackling the 'big issues' that the public have."
Major supermarkets such as the Co-operative, Tesco and Asda have one advantage over most high street firms as they can not only boast stores in every postcode, but can also set provisions to provide contact advice centres which are easily accessible and open during and after many law firms close; a major benefit to the everyday client. Further to this point it is a historic argument that current law firms are often seen as unapproachable and daunting for those who have never used a solicitor's services. Many supermarket brands are not only well known, but trusted within society, giving them automatic kudos in the market place.
Legal firms have tried to minimise this portrayal with the implementation of the 'QualitySolicitors' brand, whose vision is to "revolutionise the way law firms operate by putting clients at the heart of everything... The QualitySolicitors brand are a group of law firms spread across the UK, each one chosen because their clients tell us that they deliver great customer service." Which is the priority to most of the clients using those services.
It is argued that the reason to use solicitors from private firms is that the legal professionals you deal with have gravitas and good training. Those years spent studying at law school, undergoing articles and training contracts is pursued in order to ensure that they are providing the best advice to those using their services. This is why clients pay the fees they do, because ultimately the work, time and effort spent on each individual case is worth the money paid. With many of those working on behalf of supermarkets, not necessarily legally trained, this puts in to question as to whether they will be offering the best advice out there.
One thing that's for certain, the legal market is slowly changing and with that a lot of challenges will have to be faced and overcome. Will it mean that we will have the ability to pick up legal advice whilst undertaking our weekly shop? Who knows?! However the benefit to any progression in this way means that justice will be more accessible to those who need it most.