A majority of consumers would consider buying legal services from big brands, but publicity around alternative business structures (ABSs) and new ways to access the law over the past two years has not increased their appetite, research has indicated.
However, there is growing dissatisfaction with legal services, according to the poll by YouGov.
Its ‘Legal Services 2013’ report, which includes a survey of 2,109 members of the public, found that 59% of Britons would potentially be interested in legal services from well-known brands, such as Virgin and the Co-operative.
The first edition of the report, published in 2011 before ABSs had gone live, . As then, awareness of legal services brands was low.
The 2013 edition indicated that conveyancing clients are interested in services from building societies and estate agents, and that some clients could turn to insurers in personal injury/clinical negligence, but that for will writing and employment disputes, solicitors remain the dominant choice.
YouGov’s SixthSense division has only provided Legal Futures with some partial results from its 52-page report, which it is selling for £2,500.
The survey found that 28% of Britons had used a law firm or solicitor in the three years to January 2013 (590 of the respondents), down from 31% in the three years to 2011. The main areas were wills and probate services (30%), conveyancing (25%) and personal injury/clinical negligence (12%). There was little evidence of long-term solicitor/client relationships.
While the overwhelming majority were ‘satisfied’ or ‘most satisfied’ with the service they received across all criteria, satisfaction levels have fallen – if only by a relatively small amount – across helpfulness/friendliness of staff (77% to 74%), client communications (71% to 68%) and overall quality of service (75% to 72%).
The research also found that just 20% of those using law firms in the last three years were asked to complete client satisfaction surveys.
Experience and qualifications was cited by 85% of consumers as the most important factor when selecting legal services providers, with 77% also highlighting cost (up from 71% in 2011). Fixed fees have overtaken ‘traditional’ fee models in popularity, YouGov said, with the overwhelming majority of consumers expecting fixed fees for conveyancing and wills work.
Pointing to the interest in brands, YouGov said: “The increasing importance of price comes at a time when consumers are looking for alternatives to traditional legal services providers. Citizens Advice Bureaux have been used by 13% of consumers, while 4% have used claims management companies and legal telephone helplines.”
James McCoy, YouGov SixthSense research director, added: “The economic stagnation is reshaping what consumers look for when it comes to legal advice. People are starting to see the law as a consumer service and want to know that they are getting value for money.
“That so few customer satisfaction surveys are taking place should concern traditional providers as they will be unaware that many of these issues exist. The need for people to get value for money could play into the hands of more mainstream consumer brands wanting to establish themselves in the legal services sector.”