Legal Choices, the consumer-facing website which since 2019 has been paid for by all the legal regulators apart from the Bar Standards Board (BSB), is now receiving “part funding” from the BSB, it has emerged.
A spokesman for the regulator said the funding, and its involvement in Legal Choices, related to the ‘Can you trust your legal adviser?’ section, which now includes barristers’ disciplinary records.
Legal Choices, in its annual report for 2022, said it had extended its reach to include barristers’ disciplinary records following a data-processing agreement with the BSB last summer. A similar agreement with the Legal Ombudsman means that complaints about poor service by lawyers are also included.
A spokesman for the BSB said the regulator was “part-funding” the section of the Legal Choices website relating to disciplinary records and would keep “the extent to which we participate” in the website as a whole “under review”.
It was the BSB’s decision to pull the plug on its contribution in 2019 – and the process that led to it – that triggered Legal Services Board (LSB) concerns with its governance.
This has steadily escalated since to the point where it received by far the worse score of any regulator in the LSB’s annual assessment earlier this month, with enforcement action now being threatened.
Legal Choices said in the report that more than 400,000 people had used the site to check disciplinary records, while its Plain English dictionary had been consulted more than 1.5m times since its launch in 2020.
The most viewed definition since the dictionary’s launch is ‘constructive dismissal’, while it was ‘judicial precedent’ last year.
The website’s interactive quiz on workplace discrimination was viewed almost 80,000 times in the year to October 2022, with people spending an average time of more than five minutes on the page.
The quiz enables people who think they may have a claim to improve their understanding of discrimination “and make better choices about accessing legal advice”.
In his introduction to the report, Howard Dellar, registrar of the of the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury – which regulates notaries – and chair of the Legal Choices governance board, commented: “We have engaged frontline legal advisers to identify content gaps and evaluate published content via our reference group, run through a mobile phone app.
“And we have significantly exceeded our reach targets. Our website was visited more than 1.3m times in the past 12 months, with visitors on average spending more time on the site than in previous years.
“Meanwhile, our videos – on topics ranging from mental health in the workplace to exotic pets – were watched 1.7m times on Facebook, YouTube and Google, exceeding our target by 70%.”
Mr Dellar said the site included interactive content, like its tool for renters facing eviction, which featured tailored versions for England and Wales, where the law is different.
He went on: “New content is being written specifically to address popular search queries, boost the search engine exposure of Legal Choices content and generate more organic (unpaid) traffic. Our aim is to supplement traffic from advertising with a much higher volume of organic traffic.
“Engaging users directly in design and development has always been a key part of the way Legal Choices works. Based on recent experience, we expect up to 10m people to visit the Legal Choices website over the next five years.”