The economic climate is exacerbating the focus consumers put on cost when choosing solicitors, early findings from Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) research have indicated.
However, there were also good signs for high street firms in the pull they have with their local communities.
The research aims to look at the barriers consumers face in achieving the right outcome when they have a legal requirement.
It includes visits around the country to gauge the opinions of local people, starting last month in Llandudno in north Wales.
Richard Silver, SRA policy officer for consumer affairs, said: “We found that many people were familiar with firms with local offices, which indicates the power the high street practice still has in some communities. We also found that in hypothetical scenarios around conveyancing, it was cost that came back time and time again as the main decision criterion when appointing a solicitor.
“A few mentioned other factors, like speed or communication, but the over-riding factor was definitely looking for the cheapest quote first and foremost. We have seen this before in some of our previous consumer research but perhaps not as starkly as this – I suspect this is a reflection as well of the economic climate.”
The research will look at the different problems consumers might face when using a legal service, and if increased information can help improve outcomes for these consumers. The SRA research team will also be talking to law firms and information providers such as Citizens Advice Bureaux, charities, law centres and trade unions, to understand how consumers get information about legal services, and how this could be improved.
The SRA plans to publish the research report in early 2013, and hopes to include details of how it will use the findings to drive improved outcomes for consumers. The next phase of the research project is scheduled for Birmingham later this month.