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.”