The Client Survey 2016 report highlights key points for both consumers and legal services providers.
The way consumers access legal help is changing, although the clients who took the survey had mostly received legal services delivered in the traditional way with the lawyer doing all the work from start to finish.
Talk to your lawyer to find out if they might be able to provide work for part of your legal case so that you can get help which fits in with your budget.
For example, explaining your case in court can be stressful. Some people run their case on their own but want someone to speak for them in court. In some situations, providers are willing to do this without doing all the other work on the case.
Alternatively, some people ask a lawyer for advice about what will happen in court, so they know how to prepare to explain their case.
As the legal services sector changes, ensure that new opportunities for delivering services are available if appropriate for a client. This will help to ensure that you can make much-needed services available and remain competitive in a changing market.
One such opportunity might be providing “unbundled” services (where a package of legal services is separated into parts or tasks and the consumer and legal services provider agree which parts of the package each will carry out). Always check how you provide services with your insurance.
Legal providers must give clients essential information at the start of a case.
Always ask if you need more information or need things explained to you. A good lawyer will be happy to ensure you understand all the information you need to.
– You must signpost clients to the LeO at the beginning of a case.
– Your internal complaints procedure must be clear, with easy-to-find information about how and when clients can contact the LeO.
– Principle 5 of the CILEx Code of Conduct requires provision of the essential information.
– Information is often provided in a client care letter. Key principles for preparing these letters can be found here.
Statements rating the behaviour, standard of service and competence of the provider gave the lowest result (92%) for ‘represented me effectively in court’.
Court hearings can be stressful. Ask your provider to explain what will happen in the court hearing and what the different results might be.
Most clients do not know what to expect in a court hearing and are anxious about going to court. It is essential to take time to explain to your client what to expect at court and the range of possible outcomes of the court hearing, so that the result of the hearing is not a surprise.
Positively, 99% of respondents were prepared to recommend the provider to someone else.
It is worth noting that the Legal Services Consumer Panel’s Tracker Survey 2016, “Briefing note: How consumers are choosing legal services”, finds that recommendation is the sixth (52%) most common way that consumers choose a legal services provider.
There is an indication that delivering information online is increasing.
If you would prefer to communicate with your provider in a certain way, you should always ask if this is available to you.
The way consumers wish to communicate with lawyers, and be kept informed of the progress of their legal matter, appears to be moving towards a more technology-based approach. We will continue to monitor this trend. As evidence develops, firms will need to consider new ways of doing business and how technology can support service delivery.
The way costs are charged and clear information about costs are vital.
Make sure that you understand the costs you will have to pay and how they will be worked out. A good provider will be pleased to explain this for you.
Research has found that consumers assume legal services will be expensive and this can deter them from seeking legal help. Offering fixed fees and/or providing clear information about all costs that will be charged and the way they will be calculated will make your services more attractive to potential clients.
Clear information about the complaints procedure is essential.
It is reassuring to know that if anything goes wrong the firm has a complaints process. You should be provided with details about the complaints procedure at the beginning of your case. You should ask for this information if the firm does not give it to you.
Principle 5 of the CILEx Code of Conduct requires you to inform your client fully about your complaints procedure. This includes information about referring a complaint to the LeO or CILEx Regulation.
Key principles for preparing client care letters provide guidance to help you communicate information to clients in a way that they find easier to engage with.
Check if your complaints procedures are easy to follow, particularly the information about the timings for each stage and for making a referral to the LeO. Consider asking a friend or family member to read through the information and give you their views on how you might make it even easier to follow.
Responding well to a complaint can be positive for clients.
Good practice in handling complaints:
– Deal promptly and respond proactively to the complaint.
– There must never be a charge for any work in relation to the complaint.
– Use complaints as an opportunity to review your firm’s internal procedures to improve future service provision to clients.
Everyone needs legal services. Legal services are for everyone.
Firms are required to make reasonable adjustments so that clients can use their services. Information about this may be available on a firm’s website or by making a phone call to the firm to discuss requirements.
Ensuring that your firm is set up to respond to the needs of people with disabilities is not only required under equality law, but is an integral part of good customer service.