There are only 15 barristers on Trustpilot but their pages are viewed 4,000 times a day by consumers, showing the opportunity there for the Bar, a webinar heard last week.
Solicitors were also urged to take customer service into account when instructing barristers for their clients.
The webinar on the use of digital comparison tools (DCTs) by barristers was organised by the Bar Standards Board, which is running a pilot with four such tools – Trustpilot, Lawyer 365, Review Solicitors and Legal Utopia – on whether they can work for barristers and their consumers.
Neil Bayton, head of partnerships at Trustpilot, argued that the reason review websites like his were important for legal services was because they were important for consumers – 90% of consumers said their buying decisions were influenced by online reviews, while 72% acted after reading a positive review, he recounted.
Positively, the law was not a sector where there was “race to the bottom when it comes to price”, he went on. “It’s about the service you offer. And we know that lots of consumers will pay for that additional service.”
Mr Bayton said there were 15 barristers on Trustpilot and the fact that they received 4,000 views a day – and that Trustpilot is the 25th most visited website in the UK – showed that people were looking for lawyers they could trust.
A search of the website indicates that most of these 15 are actually chambers. Elite Chambers – a two-barrister business specialising in financial mis-selling claims – has the most reviews (522) and a near-perfect rating of 4.9 out of five.
The others with a significant number of reviews are Clerksroom Direct (4.7 from 353 reviews), immigration specialist firm Richmond Chambers (4.9 from 157 reviews), and two-barrister medical defence specialist Kings View Chambers (4.8 from 148). Next was Nottingham-based Quartz Chambers (4.6 from 23).
Back in 2013, Richmond Chambers became the first alternative business structure licensed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority that did not have any solicitors.
We only found two individuals listed on Trustpilot – family and immigration law direct access barrister Zubair Mughal (4.6 from 29 reviews) and Dr John Brown, a direct access barrister practising through North East Barristers Chambers (4.3 from eight reviews).
Mr Bayton urged solicitors also to bear in mind the importance of client service when instructing barristers.
“I feel that they’ve got a duty of care to the end customer to be choosing a barrister based upon not just the legal outcome [but also] the customer service they offer as well… It’s actually not just about the outcome, it’s also about the communication.”
Paul Crook, a member of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, said its research has shown more consumers using DCTs as well as “a significant increase” in the correlation between how much consumers felt they have been able to choose and “their ultimate satisfaction with that services provider”.
“So that tells us that if you enable consumers to choose, you encourage a more positive collaboration with your customer.”
He added that “people will often check out the barrister that their solicitor has chosen for them. So the ability to gather information on barristers using digital tools is very much sought after”.
Mr Crook said there has been “some progress” on price transparency in the law. “It has been very slow compared to the ambition set out by the CMA [Competition & Markets Authority], but it is increasing and improving…. This is a key focus area for the Legal Services Board and we’re very happy to see that.”
Quality indicators were “still significantly underdeveloped when compared to other types of services, and particularly other services that are complex”.
He continued: “There’s a lot of work to be done there but we do believe that the use of DCTs could encourage that work to accelerate and we would certainly welcome that. So the pilot will bring a number of significant advantages.”