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Consumers happy with lawyers’ services but don’t trust them, says survey


Hayter: lawyers need to restore confidence in them as trusted advisers

The great majority of consumers who have used legal services are satisfied with the outcome, although many do not feel they received good value for money, a survey has found.

Worryingly for lawyers likely to face competition from trusted brands after October, however, it suggested significant public distrust of lawyers, especially among young people.

Results of two surveys for the Legal Services Consumer Panel – of former clients and the general public – found more than 92% of people were satisfied with outcomes in both conveyancing and will writing, and 82% in probate cases. The three made up 70% of the legal services used.

The research was carried out to underpin the panel’s forthcoming consumer impact report, the first consumer assessment of the Legal Services Act 2007.

In the more contentious areas of family law and personal injury claims, 73% and 69% respectively of the 1,100 former clients polled expressed satisfaction. Cases involving consumer goods or services (64%), benefits advice (65%) and housing-related problems (67%) led to lowest satisfaction.

The professional manner in which their lawyer acted was the aspect of service that most satisfied consumers, while communication while the matter was progressing least satisfied them – although 72% were still happy.

But just 56% of respondents felt the service they received had been good value for money.

Perhaps alarmingly, among the 1,277 members of the public surveyed, only 47% said they would “generally trust” lawyers to tell the truth – well behind doctors (85%) and teachers (71%).

But when invited to actively express distrust, just 20% of people said they “would generally not trust lawyers”. The rest neither trusted nor distrusted lawyers or didn’t know.

Trust was lower among the 18-24 age group and non-white people and higher among white people and the over-55s.

Regulators of lawyers may be concerned to learn that just 51% of the public believed their consumer rights would be protected when using legal services.

Most consumers found a lawyer through recommendation or referral – just 1% used price comparison websites and 5% used a quality mark. Only one in five shopped around.

Dr Dianne Hayter, the panel’s chairwoman, said: “It is extremely worrying that fewer than half of the public say they would generally trust lawyers to tell the truth… the profession must take a hard look at itself and work to restore confidence in lawyers as trusted advisers.”

Compared with other occupations and groups, at third place in the trust league table lawyers fare quite well. They ranked ahead of accountants, “the ordinary man or woman in the street”, shop assistants and bankers.

Estate agents inspired the least trust, below builders and car mechanics.

See Neil Rose’s blog [2]on this survey.