Full-blown legal comparison websites move closer – are you ready?

Rogers: the idea of having comparison sites for law firms is a great one

Posted by Brian Rogers, director of regulation and compliance at Legal Futures Associate Riliance

The popularity of comparison sites such as Compare The Market is clear for everyone to see, but up until now there has not been a service such as this for law firms. However, this is all set to change, as the Legal Services Board, the oversight regulator, has said that it has secured ‘agreement in principle’ from all the approved regulators in order to publish information they hold about their regulated communities in a ‘reusable format’.

Much of this information is actually already in public circulation, through the Legal Choices website that is run by frontline regulators, but it is not in a format that comparison sites would be able to use. Once the information is made available in a reusable format, then comparison sites will be able to help potential clients look for the best available service for their individual needs.

However, is this a good thing for all law firms? Many don’t seek client feedback at all, so how would they fare against rival firms that do? This could potentially drastically change the way that law firms conduct business, as they will not only be preoccupied with receiving a glowing review from the client, but they will have to keep their prices as competitive as possible in order to show up as often as possible in comparison websites.

However, because comparison sites are driven by customer and client reviews, it will give the firms that are performing exponentially well the platform they deserve in order to bring on more clients. In this way, comparison sites will help to bring excellent law firms the clientele they desire.

However, once the ‘baseline’ has been established and there are a group of firms that have been positively reviewed enough to be the most recommended, it will be extremely difficult for any other firms to rise above them, as it will be hard to receive a recommendation over them.

Another mark against the comparison site process is that sometimes there are unsatisfied clients who unfairly blame their lawyers. If they post severely negative reviews about something that was completely out of the lawyers’ hands, then the lawyer will have no choice about the review being assessed by these comparison sites.

This will have the potential for lawyers to become overly cautious in the work they do for clients. It is, of course, a very good idea for all lawyers to be careful and conscientious in their work, but when a lawyer is too scared of receiving a bad review to do their job properly, then this will affect their law firm and, indeed, even the industry as a whole.

The idea of having comparison sites for law firms is a great one – potential clients will have the power to choose the best site for what they need. However, it does have the potential to harbour a negative client service culture and to create difficulties for firms who are wishing to become more successful.

But even though it has these potential drawbacks, comparison sites will be a great way to provide business for firms who excel at what they do.

Even if this particular proposal doesn’t come to fruition for a few years, it is a good indicator of the way that the LSB is looking to take the legal market forward. Even if we don’t see full-blown comparison websites, the market will shift towards consumers demanding greater transparency and more information about the quality of service they expect to get from a legal practice.

In order to prepare for this new paradigm it is key that firms start getting their houses in order today by ensuring they are implementing best practice policies, processes and systems across their firm.

For more information about how to implement best practice into you firm, please visit http://RilianceAssist.com

    Readers Comments

  • Matthew Briggs says:

    Slightly out of touch – check out http://www.wigster.com

    Singly the most effective legal comparison web site in the UK.

  • Brian, it’s good to see such a balanced piece on comparison websites. Access Solicitor (www.AccessSolicitor.com) was one of only two comparison website operators that attended the meeting with the LSB, Consumer Panel and regulators to make the case for more open data access. The LSB and Consumer Panel should be commended for breaking complete regulator inaction for almost 3 years, but this is only an early step and no silver bullet. The data to be provided initially is limited to basic regulatory information which will be unclean in its raw form, is already widely available, and won’t enable clients to make an informed decision on its own. For even this to be achieved the SRA needs to get past the Law Society’s misplaced agenda to frustrate access to any solicitor data because they (arguably anti-competitively) want to prevent other services competing with Find a Solicitor. None of this affects Access Solicitor because we have offshored scaling the depth of data that clients actually require (which, incidentally, is not just price comparison). Just since August last year we have built tens of thousands of basic listings, thousands of fully enhanced listings and recently added a call centre facilitating high quality lead generation matches between lawyers and clients. And all this for free as we continue to build trust with lawyers and test the market. We will continue working with all the regulators to ensure the ongoing accuracy of lawyer data that we are already aggregating so that all the benefits highlighted in your piece can be fully realised.

  • Dorin says:

    Comparison websites only benefit the clients. Of course the business owners do not particularly like them as they can receive bad reviews, which they should if it is the case. In time, people should only use the services of companies that use such websites and have good reviews. That way, the companies will have to try harder to make their clients happy and meet their demands.

  • In terms of ratings and feedback on quality, the key is how issues are handled and resolved, hence resolver (which I am from) is now looking at all legal firms into the service so we can create a quality ranking system independent of referrals, to help consumers privately resolve their issues with legal firms and then to rate the quality of the issue resolution. If not resolved the case will be automatically escalated to the Legal Ombudsman, ensuring issues are dealt with effectively.

  • Sarah says:

    The problem with most solicitor comparison sites is that often only the lawyers who pay upfront to be included are compared. Sites such as Lawspark (http://www.lawspark.org.uk/) and Elance where all all uk lawyers can submit quotes give consumers the biggest choice.

Leave a Comment

By clicking Submit you consent to Legal Futures storing your personal data and confirm you have read our Privacy Policy and section 5 of our Terms & Conditions which deals with user-generated content. All comments will be moderated before posting.

Required fields are marked *
Email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Loading animation