Nearly seven out of ten people are attracted to the idea of finding legal services on the internet and a similar number of younger adults are likely to go to supermarket providers, according to a survey.
Meanwhile, more than eight out of ten are more likely to take legal advice on a fixed-fee basis but fewer than four in ten people agree with the proposition that “solicitors are upstanding members of society”.
The survey, which revealed a range of suspicions about solicitors’ motives and costs, and confirmed younger consumers are more attracted to non-conventional sources of legal services than older consumers, was commissioned by the fixed-fee legal price comparison website Compare Legal Costs. It queried a representative sample of 1,000 adults across the UK in a 10-minute online survey.
The survey found almost 22% had used a legal service in the past year, although far fewer than the nearly 50% who had used a financial service.
Overall, the idea of finding legal services online appealed to 68% of people, the survey said. However, while 75% of people aged between 18 and 44 were attracted, nearly half of people (49%) aged over 55 said it “does not appeal”.
Among those who don’t like the idea, the two most popular reasons given were that they wanted to be able to talk to someone about their legal needs (43%), or preferred communicating face-to-face (41%). On average, the older the person the more likely they were to prefer personal contact.
Two-thirds of people who said the idea appealed gave convenience as the reason – “I can find legal services at any time” – while almost as many said it was because “I can compare services without the pressure to buy”. Similarly, asked which type of online services appealed most, four out five chose a comparison site which doesn’t involve making a commitment.
In results that showed a corresponding appetite for innovation in obtaining offline legal services among the young, the survey said 64% of people aged between 18 and 35 were likely to buy services from a supermarket.
But six out of ten over 45s said they were not likely to do so. The main reason given was “I don’t think supermarkets are specialist enough”.
The survey found a range of negative views about solicitors and their fees. 66% said they are paid too much; 70% said they “always have hidden costs”; just 39% agreed solicitors are “upstanding”; 42% said they are arrogant; and 65% believe costs will escalate above the quoted price. More than 80% said they are “more likely to take legal advice if I know a fixed cost up front”.
The researchers insisted that internet usage has grown to the point where conducting an online survey about preferences of this sort is no longer biased in favour of those who use online services.
Compare Legal Costs founder, Michael Welsh, an employment solicitor who started the business last year , said: “The public is clearly looking for alternative ways to meet their legal needs. We – in the legal profession – need to catch up with the times and embrace the internet and fixed costs.”