The process of purchasing goods and services is familiar to all of us as consumers. We regularly buy items such as phones, cars, utilities and insurance, but as most people do not need to use legal services on a regular basis, many do not know what to expect, what to look for or even where to start.
Our consumer work is aimed at understanding what consumers want and need, so that we can support them in making the right decisions when choosing and using legal services. We are working to improve the process for consumers, by ensuring information is provided in an accessible format and located where consumers will be able to easily find it, as part of their journey when choosing a legal provider.
Last year, we commissioned IRN to carry out qualitative research on consumer behaviour with consumers who had recently used legal services for conveyancing, probate or family law. It explored people’s approaches to finding and using legal services and their satisfaction with their lawyer. The findings fed into the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) review of the legal services market study and are helping us shape our ongoing work, such as developing quality indicators.
The research also provided important insights, enabling us to enhance our website, specifically the ‘I am a member of the public’ section for consumers, where there was a need for additional information on meeting with a lawyer for the first time.
At the time, virtually all of the research respondents felt that their lawyer provided all the information they needed at their first consultation, but 29% identified questions that they would have asked ‘knowing what I know now’. We took this feedback and developed a set of questions for the first meeting with a lawyer that consumers can refer to in advance.
Legal Choices website
We also work with other regulators where we can see an opportunity to maximise information access and provide other benefits for consumers across the wider legal sector.
An example of this is our work with the Legal Choices website, one of our biggest joint regulator initiatives. It provides consumer-facing legal services information and signposting to other trusted organisations, such as Gov.UK and Advice Now. During the three years ending December 2020, the website received over three million visitors. They come via direct search or through social media campaigns which reach out to consumers and direct them to where they can find legal help on the website. The site provides information in various forms including videos on the Legal Choices YouTube channel, which have been very well received. Other parts of the site are proving popular, with an increase in consumers visiting the registers of legal professionals page. The legal dictionary tool has also been very successful and we have recently offered our firms the opportunity to enhance their own websites by hosting the tool, as we have done.
Please email us to find out more if your firm is interested in utilising this feature.
Quality Indicators pilot
Another joint regulator initiative is the quality indicators pilot. Working with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Council for Licensed Conveyancers and Bar Standards Board, with a focus on conveyancing and employment law, we are investigating what more can be done to improve the quality, range and accessibility of legal services information for consumers.
In phase one, firms were asked to seek and engage with online customer reviews and comparison sites, using either free packages or by signing up for subscription services and actively encouraging their clients to leave reviews. With more than 70 firms participating, including one of our regulated firms, we are pleased to see the scheme making a positive impact, with firms reporting the benefits of online reviews, such as increased client feedback, enhanced marketing and improved staff morale following positive reviews.
Digital comparison tools have seen marked changes in engagement from firms and consumers and Trustpilot has reported an unprecedented 25% increase in law firms claiming their profiles on their platform. There has also been a doubling of consumer reviews of legal services compared with the same time last year.
Phase two of the pilot is now exploring what third-party information is available, for example from Land Registry and Legal Ombudsman data, to enhance consumer decision-making and how this can help increase engagement further.