The Law Society is powered by its members. Its structure – everything from Council members to the network of regional managers – is designed to incorporate members’ needs and views into decisions.
As a membership organisation, the Society always wants to find out more about members and the legal landscape to ensure that we will be best placed to represent, promote and support the profession. We need to know the challenges members face and the answers to questions such as ‘what would aid members in their daily work?’ and ‘what could the Law Society do to help members?’.
To do this we need regular feedback and insight from the profession on policy and practical issues that affect solicitors. However, with more than 130,000 members it is difficult to collect information from every one, particularly given the diverse membership in terms of location, organisation types, practice areas and so on.
This is why we launched the Law Society’s Insights Community in 2014 – a free-to-join online network of Society members.
Since going live, the community has grown to include more than 1,200 members who, through online research activities, regularly provide views on topical legal issues such as government proposals and trends likely to affect the sector.
Topics recently investigated include the incorporation of technology, the effects of Brexit and amendments to the court system.
The community also provides input into the development of existing and proposed Law Society products and services. Its views help to ensure that the strategic direction of the Society is in line with the perspectives of its membership.
These views come from a cross-section of solicitors working in private practice, in-house, in government and in the third sector – and, as feedback shows, non-private practice solicitors feel a benefit of staying connected to the wider profession:
- ‘Lawyers in the civil service can be overlooked by representative bodies, as we are neither private practitioners nor working in-house. The Insights Community gives me the opportunity to raise awareness of issues relevant to – and that impact upon – this sector of the profession.’
- ‘I have a very busy in-house practice and the Law Society’s community makes me feel that I can still connect to solicitors in private practice.’
The issues we quiz panel members about have to be of joint interest to the Society and to the community. They are generated through demand from teams across the Law Society: from policy teams to event and publications organisers. The ideas developed by these teams usually flow down from, and subsequently inform, objectives and goals included in the Society’s business plan and strategy.
The Insights team – who are members of the Law Society’s research unit – take care to ensure research activities are designed with community members in mind. We aim to stimulate thinking among members so they consider fully trends and issues affecting the sector. Feedback from the community suggests members enjoy such thought experiments:
- ‘The questionnaires make me think about topics that I would not normally consider, which is good.’
- ‘Useful ideas. The questions make me think about managing the practice.’
Moreover, the research is designed in such a way that it does not intrude into the busy lives of the legal profession – activities are not time-consuming and community members are able to participate regardless of geographic location and at a time convenient to them.
As one Insights member put it: ‘Good to be part of the legal community without having to take time out of a busy day – can join in when it’s convenient and share thoughts and experience.’
In return for taking part in research, community members receive access to a host of useful market intelligence and gain insight into how the Society has used its research findings through the bi-monthly Insights newsletter.
The newsletters are well received by community members:
- ‘Learn new things, feel as if contributing and someone listening about important issues.’
- ‘Useful information as to what is happening at the Law Society.’
- ‘Useful and informative about relevant matters.’
Research activities influence the Law Society’s three main strands of activity: representing, promoting and supporting the legal profession.
What we have learnt from the Insights community:
- According to Insights community members, the number of cases being adjourned in the county courts is increasing. Reasons for the adjournments tend to centre around court procedures and processes or the involvement of litigants in person. This information was included in a report sent to Lord Justice Briggs.
- Research with the community fed into Capturing Technological Innovation in Legal Services, a Law Society report considering how technological innovations are reshaping the legal sector and how solicitors have huge opportunities to enhance the way they work and the service they offer their clients.
- The career satisfaction survey. Research with the community to gauge levels of career satisfaction and to understand what motivates solicitors found that members are mostly happy with their careers and are unlikely to change jobs in the immediate future. Despite this, the research found that there are still improvements that employers will need to address to retain legal talent.
- Court fees research. Information collated on the effects of the increase in court fees was used in the Law Society’s response to the government’s July 2015 consultation on proposals to increase court and tribunal fees.
Join the Insights community to see more research findings and be part of this growing network, ensuring that your voice is heard by the Society. All you need to do is complete a short profiling survey, confirm your email address and you are good to go.
If you have any questions about the Insights community and/or content included in this article, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More about the research unit
The Law Society’s research unit undertakes and commissions research and analysis to support evidence-based decision-making within the organisation and to provide useful market intelligence for members.
The unit is made up of economists and quantitative and qualitative research experts who analyse:
- The make-up of the profession.
- Topical issues affecting the working lives of solicitors and businesses in which they work.
- Wider legal market trends and issues (including the perspectives of buyers of legal services and drawing in data about other suppliers of legal services).
More information is available on the Law Society website.
Caitlin Padmore is market insight executive at the Law Society