Davies: law firms must raise their game

Close to half of consumers of legal services are not satisfied with the value for money they received, with probate providing the least satisfaction and will writing the most, according to research.

In the latest release of data from the Legal Services Consumer Panel’s (LSCP) annual tracker survey, family law services were felt by the consumers questioned to be only a little better value (50%) than probate (46%). Across all areas of law, just 57% of consumers considered they received value for money on average.

The findings tally with the fact that almost one in five of all complaints to the Legal Ombudsman (17%) in 2012-13 concerned costs, according to its annual report published last week.

Nearly 80% of recipients of will-writing services expressed satisfaction with value, although the LSCP pointed out that wills were often sold as a loss leader for subsequent probate services.

It added that satisfaction with the value of personal injury and employment services – by at least six out of 10 former clients – should also be treated cautiously because they were often provided to consumers at no cost.

Observing that relatively few consumers were willing to say they had received “very good” value for money, the panel said this “suggests that affordability is still a pressing concern for the sector”.

However, the survey found satisfaction with service levels remained high, sticking at 80% of consumers – the same as last year – although information about costs was among the worst-rated elements of customer service.

Adam Sampson, Chief Legal Ombudsman, said: “Costs-related issues still account for a high number of the complaints we see at the Legal Ombudsman. I can’t stress enough how important it is for lawyers to be transparent when estimating costs and throughout a case so that consumers don’t get a nasty surprise at the end. These figures show that there is still plenty of room for improvement.”

Elisabeth Davies, chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, added: “Value for money matters more than ever at a time when households are really feeling the pinch. Affordability is a key factor when people are deciding whether to get legal advice or go it alone instead, so it’s concerning that our survey suggests lawyers are still widely seen as too expensive.

“Our survey shows where lawyers need to do better at customer service. Being clear about what the likely costs will be, sticking to deadlines and keeping clients updated on progress are all areas needing improvement. Competition for customers will only intensify over the next period – law firms must raise their game on these things or else face being left behind.”

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    Readers Comments

  • How many firms regularly ask for client feedback on their performance, not many I would suggest. Too many firms take their clients for granted hence the perception lawyers are too expensive. How much is this due to the client not understanding what the practitioner has done and the practitioner not bothering to explain same.

  • Lawyers still seem unwilling to accept that the cost of legal services is a significant problem, even if consumers don’t necessarily lodge a formal complaint. And too many seem unable to grasp the simple fact that it is their responsibility for both managing consumers’ expectations and keeping them up to date on costs. Which is infuriating because it really shouldn’t be that difficult.

  • This is a serious issue, but on surveys like this much depends upon how the question is asked.

    Our surveys of our family law clients from 22 specialist divorce lawyers, which go to every client, show very high ratings for “value” and satisfaction as against the 50% claimed by the above survey.

    The word “value” is one which isn’t actually understood by most people and should not only be assumed to relate to the cost. Has the LSCP not heard of the “gratitude curve”?


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