The recent YouGov survey of over 2,000 individuals commissioned by the Legal Services Board contains some useful information. But can you use it to help clients, reduce costs and increase profits?Research always has to be taken cautiously. Henry Ford is supposed to have commented, apropos developing cars, that if he’d have asked the public what they wanted, they’d have asked for a faster horse. The LSB research shows some confusion among the public about legal services. Most respondents (75%) chose their solicitor by some form of recommendation; a similar percentage (77%) didn’t bother to ‘shop around’. And while 5% used internet search and 3% the Yellow Pages, when asked what they’d like, 42% of consumers wanted ‘online price comparison sites’ and 28% ‘more online legal services’.

Other things they wanted are, I suggest, already there and available to use. ‘Something like NHS Direct, but for legal services’ was requested by 52%. Solicitors’ firms have had telephones for many years, why don’t you call and ask for help? Although not a 24-hour service, most legal problems can wait till the morning.

Half the people wanted ‘more drop-in legal centres in my local community’. I’d be surprised if the majority of the urban population did not live within three or four miles of a solicitors’ office. Drop in indeed – lawyers are not that scary!

One conclusion to draw from all this is that solicitors are not telling the public how to easily contact or visit them and how open they are (or should be) to enquiries of all types. Clients appear concerned it will cost them money to walk through the door; or that somehow they’ll get a bill for more than the cost of a telephone call.

What to do? Make some minor changes, like having a solicitor or solicitors ready to take calls up to 6pm or even 7pm - or open the switchboard at 8am. Give every client a business card or a letter to reassure them that they can call or pop-in ‘just for a chat if something’s bothering them’. Most firms already do this type of thing for their commercial clients.

Also, look at the language you use in your leaflets and on your website. Change it to encourage calls, visits and emails. You may have to review how you handle enquiries, and note the number and type of incoming calls.

As the competition from branded legal services increases, using research like this to make changes is worth the effort. If you don’t, your competitors will – or will have done so already.