Three regulators are joining forces to pilot ways for law firms to engage better with comparison websites and online review platforms, starting with conveyancing and employment work.
The initiative by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), CILEx Regulation and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers is the latest step in the push to improve the range of information available to the public when choosing a legal services provider.
While there has been progress with requiring firms offering certain common services to provide price and service details, the focus has now shifted to ways of indicating quality.
The full details are set to be announced later this month, with the trio currently recruiting both digital comparison tool (DCT) providers and regulated law firms to join the pilot.
The pilot will initially look at opportunities for firms to seek feedback from their clients and to manage online customer reviews.
In a joint statement, the regulators said: “What do you think makes a good quality legal service? Some people might argue it’s the level of expertise of the person providing the service, or whether the legal work was carried out accurately. Others might say it’s the way it is delivered, in terms of speed or customer service.
“Members of the public are increasingly looking for information that can help them understand the quality of legal services they might receive to help them compare different firms and lawyers.”
The Legal Services Consumer Panel has been tracking the extent to which consumers shop around for legal services for several years, and last year saw the figure creep up to its highest yet, at 30%.
The panel also said last year that independent websites providing impartial information on the quality of legal services providers were needed to guide people.
It said consumers were currently forced to use “unreliable proxies” for quality, such as longevity of service, customer service and website design.
But while the panel’s research has consistently found that few people seeking legal advice used DCTs, a survey by the SRA last year found that 41% of consumers and 55% of SMEs were aware of legal services price comparison sites and 13% and 22% respectively had used them. Some 47% also looked at customer reviews.
Separately, a report published in September by First4Lawyers found that many personal injury law firms failed to understand what potential clients were looking for and were wasting their marketing budgets as a result – even though two-thirds of solicitors polled reckoned their clients shopped around before choosing a lawyer.
The Competition and Markets Authority’s 2016 report on the legal market began the transparency drive and in its progress review published in December said it wanted to see comparison websites become more involved in the legal market.