Satisfaction with legal services providers is high, major new research has found, with those using solicitors likely to get a better result than those who sought advice from other providers.
The Legal Services Board (LSB) survey of the legal advice ‘journey’ of 4,017 people found that when confronted by a legal need – ranging from serious matters to more trivial issues, such as faulty goods – 44% of consumers took some form of professional advice, 12% sought advice from friends and family, 27% handled the legal need without help and 14% did nothing.
Of those who sought advice, 42% went to solicitors and 12% to Citizens Advice Bureaux; in all, regulated providers were involved in 47% of legal needs that required advice, and provided the majority of advice in areas such as conveyancing, probate, divorce and will writing. Unregulated providers are more likely to help with money and benefit problems, neighbour and property disputes as well as will-writing. Only 20% of legal needs were reserved legal activities.
The research, by BDRC Continental, said: “Solicitors attracted older clients who were more likely to be social class AB than other providers. For CABx the profile was younger and less male biased.”
Some 82% of all respondents said they were satisfied with the service provided, with older people more satisfied than those under 35. Dissatisfaction was highest in less predictable areas, such as divorce.
Ratings of the quality of advice, the providers’ professionalism and the tailor-made approach were very high, the survey said; elements which were rated lower were often service issues such as clarity of costs, speed of the process and how communications were handled. “However, even for these aspects of the service, over three-quarters were satisfied.”
One of the most surprising results, researchers said, was that only 8% of people sought to negotiate the fee; when they did, 77% were successful in reducing it. Occurrences of cross-selling were infrequent, but where they did occur, about 75% of people took them up.
The survey said that in nearly two-thirds of cases, respondents felt that the advice given helped to achieve completely their objectives of taking it. “However, it is clear that using a lawyer does increase the chances of the legal need to be completely successful (74%, compared to 65% for the survey population as a whole).”
The survey said that the most common method of choosing a provider was previous experience or knowledge of the provider, either personally or by asking someone whose opinion the respondent trusted (either a friend or relative). An Internet search was the next most common way of finding a legal need provider, ahead of traditional advertising channels.
LSB chief executive Chris Kenny said: “For the legal services market to function effectively and in consumers’ interests, we need to understand how real people make real decisions about the myriad of legal issues they face in life.
“Today’s report provides some fascinating insights into the ways in which people go about solving their problems. And, more troublingly, into why some people seek no help at all.
“The findings emphasise the potential demand for high-quality, low-cost legal services across a wide range of different problem types to support consumers in responding to everyday legal problems.”