Consumers happy with lawyers’ services but don’t trust them, says survey

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By Legal Futures

21 June 2011


Hayter: lawyers need to restore confidence in them as trusted advisers

The great majority of consumers who have used legal services are satisfied with the outcome, although many do not feel they received good value for money, a survey has found.

Worryingly for lawyers likely to face competition from trusted brands after October, however, it suggested significant public distrust of lawyers, especially among young people.

Results of two surveys for the Legal Services Consumer Panel – of former clients and the general public – found more than 92% of people were satisfied with outcomes in both conveyancing and will writing, and 82% in probate cases. The three made up 70% of the legal services used.

The research was carried out to underpin the panel’s forthcoming consumer impact report, the first consumer assessment of the Legal Services Act 2007.

In the more contentious areas of family law and personal injury claims, 73% and 69% respectively of the 1,100 former clients polled expressed satisfaction. Cases involving consumer goods or services (64%), benefits advice (65%) and housing-related problems (67%) led to lowest satisfaction.

The professional manner in which their lawyer acted was the aspect of service that most satisfied consumers, while communication while the matter was progressing least satisfied them – although 72% were still happy.

But just 56% of respondents felt the service they received had been good value for money.

Perhaps alarmingly, among the 1,277 members of the public surveyed, only 47% said they would “generally trust” lawyers to tell the truth – well behind doctors (85%) and teachers (71%).

But when invited to actively express distrust, just 20% of people said they “would generally not trust lawyers”. The rest neither trusted nor distrusted lawyers or didn’t know.

Trust was lower among the 18-24 age group and non-white people and higher among white people and the over-55s.

Regulators of lawyers may be concerned to learn that just 51% of the public believed their consumer rights would be protected when using legal services.

Most consumers found a lawyer through recommendation or referral – just 1% used price comparison websites and 5% used a quality mark. Only one in five shopped around.

Dr Dianne Hayter, the panel’s chairwoman, said: “It is extremely worrying that fewer than half of the public say they would generally trust lawyers to tell the truth… the profession must take a hard look at itself and work to restore confidence in lawyers as trusted advisers.”

Compared with other occupations and groups, at third place in the trust league table lawyers fare quite well. They ranked ahead of accountants, “the ordinary man or woman in the street”, shop assistants and bankers.

Estate agents inspired the least trust, below builders and car mechanics.

See Neil Rose’s blog on this survey.

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4 Responses to “Consumers happy with lawyers’ services but don’t trust them, says survey”

  1. The finding on trust replicates similar findings over many years, as does the general level of satisfaction which members of the public feel towards their own solicitors.

    improvement is always possible, there is work to do, but Dr Hayter’s comment that the profession needs to take a hard look at itself on the trust issue, is asinine and careless.

    in any proper assessment, one neseds to take account of the factors influencing perception that are not within lawyers’ control.

    For example, much law is conflictual, so there are always injured parties. Lawyers defend very unpleasant people, callled criminals, something much of the public regards as a less than worthwhile activity. Media coverage of these areas is exponentially greater than, for example, wills, conveyancing or probate, where most people encounter lawyers. Fictional lawyers are more intriguing and dramatic portrayed as unpleasant. It is interesting a that mistrust is highest among young people, who have had the least direct exposure to lawyers.

    This is not to say that the profession is blameless. Often, lawyers do not communicate well, explain their charges properly, or insist on adherence to charging regimes that are no longer appropriate. Trusted brands with financial muscle, though no more trustworthy than the typical law firm,are undoubtedly a threat. We need to respond with agility and commercial nous, but there is no reason to beat ourselves up in the belief that we are not more loved because of our core ethics.

    Dr Johnson said, “I do not wish to speak ill of the man, but I believe he is an attorney.” To a degree, it will always be thus. For those whose primary goal is universal adulation, there is the stage. Or nursing.

    Twitter @thewordofgold

  2. Stephen Gold on June 21st, 2011 at 11:07 am
  3. It is interesting that the question was whether respondents trusted lawyers to tell the truth. The question was not, despite the gloss put on it by Baroness Hayter, whether lawyers are trusted to give sound, independent advice. I wonder what the response would have been had people been asked whether they would trust their lawyer to represent their (the cleint’s) interests?

  4. James Hayward on June 21st, 2011 at 4:59 pm
  5. None of these findings should come as a huge surprise. And I suspect it will difficult to redress the balance particularly in the area of Trust; service can be improved by changing the nature of the service delivery times, cost and perceived value. Lawyers have to be prepared to modernise. They outside world is changing more rapidly than most of them can keep pace with and that includes their expectations of their lawyers. Like it or loathe it, social media is also going to have an impact on our thinking so that we will become accustomed to less not more people contact. Law firms have to be prepared to embrace new media and starting working out how it can improve some the areas mentioned in the report. It is high time firms started thinking about how Facebook and blogging can change the dynamic of the interaction and not just see it as a fancy set of tools.

    Julian

  6. Julian Summerhayes on June 22nd, 2011 at 5:56 am
  7. Lawyer review and comparison sites have a lot of importance now. I think websites like http://www.trustedlawyers.co.uk will have a big role to play in coming days

  8. A Lawyer on April 25th, 2012 at 6:42 am

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