Tag Archives: Legal Services Consumer Panel

Clients Satisfied but not Trusting of Lawyers

Lack of Trust

Lack of TrustAccording to a recent report from legal watchdog the Legal Services Consumer Panel, the UK’s legal client satisfaction rates are currently high. In spite of this, however, the level of trust that the public places in lawyers is falling.

The watchdog’s tracker survey was carried out between February and March this year in association with prominent survey specialists YouGov. Questions were asked of 1,864 people, of which the majority – 1,523 – had made use of legal services in the past two years.

The survey revealed that 85% of those who had made use of professional legal services reported that they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the service they had received from their lawyers, backing up strong satisfaction figures from other recent surveys.  61% said that the service from their chosen provider represented good value for money, with only 10% saying that they received poor value for the price they paid.

On the other hand, and despite the majority of people being happy with the service they received from their lawyers, the level of trust that people place in legal professionals is low and falling. Only 42% of those who responded to the survey said that they trusted lawyers to be truthful. Last year, this figure was 47%. Over a fifth of people, 22% said that they actively did not trust lawyers to be truthful.

This does not compare favourably with the trust figures for other professions. It places lawyers on a par with accountants, but in a less positive position compared to teachers, who were trusted to tell the truth by 69% of the general public, and doctors, who have the trust of 80%. Women were more likely than men to trust lawyers, the survey showed, and white people were more trusting of lawyers than people from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds.

The survey also examined the factors that typically go into a person’s choice of legal provider. While the majority of respondents stated that legal services had provided them with good value for money, this was not the most important deciding factor. That title goes to the reputation of the provider in question, which more than three quarter (77%) stated was the biggest consideration.

Price was nonetheless important, with 69% of the survey’s respondents stating that this was an important factor. Almost as highly-valued was the location of the provider, with 68% of people saying that a convenient location was important to them when choosing which firm they would go to.

Legal Services Board Voices Concerns About Price Publishing

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has expressed reservations that legal firms should publish their “average prices.” The LSB is concerned that rather than helping consumers, which is the intention of the recommendations, the data could instead prove misleading and confusing.

The recommendations in question were made by the Legal Services Consumer Panel, which was looking into methods of “opening data” from the legal industry. The panel suggested that it should be made a requirement by approved regulatory bodies that firms and individual practitioners within the legal industry should make information on their prices accessible. Specifically, it was recommended that they publish the average cost of the services they provide, including disbursements, on their website, and also be bound to produce this information if it is requested.

The LSB, in response to these recommendations, accepted that there is evidence to suggest “weak price transparency” in the legal industry. However, the board recommended that “careful” appraisal of the benefits and costs should be carried out before regulators consider making the publication of average prices a requirement.

“It is not clear at this stage,” the LSB said in a letter to the panel in response to these recommendations, “whether publication of average prices for particular legal services would be more helpful than misleading for customers.”

In its letter, the LSB also spoke of the “burden for practitioners” that the need to calculate and publish these averages would create. Furthermore, the matter of reaching an agreed and auditable methodology for calculating average prices, the LSB said, “could be challenging.”

Nonetheless, the Legal Services Consumer Panel’s recommendations were not outright opposed by the board either. Rather, the LSB said that it could not “reach a firm view on this recommendation” without it being subjected to further discussion and more detailed analysis of evidence.

The Legal Services Consumer Panel also made a number of other recommendations. These included the publication of complaints records, and the suggestion that regulators could use a “mystery shopping” approach to assess the quality of legal advice given by practitioners on sensitive or high-risk legal issues and then publish the results of this research. The LSB also expressed reservations about this suggestiion, saying that regulators “cannot (and should not) directly oversee practitioners when they serve their clients.” The board supported the principle of improving the understanding approved regulators have of the quality of advice being given in the legal industry, but said that the proposed research could be an expensive way to “only provide a snapshot in time for a small sample of practitioners.”