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