Vulnerable people seeking help in family law cases generally have a positive experience with solicitors though one in 10 describes their experience as ‘very poor’, according to research published today.
The findings appear in independent research into services published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
The research, carried out by economic research company Ecorys, was compiled with data gathered from more than 200 interviews with law firms, members of the public and clients.
Its purpose was to explore issues of access, cost and quality in the context of legal aid reforms to family law.
Among consumers surveyed 48% described their experience as ‘excellent’. The SRA said the research showed that ‘most solicitors appear to be providing services in line with expected standards’.
One area where generally firms appear to be doing a good job is helping people to make choices about the services they need, the SRA said. Firms achieved this by training staff to receive initial calls, or setting up longer or free initial meetings with clients.
On the price of services, the report states: ‘Just under two thirds of consumers in the survey (64%) reported their solicitor’s costs to be affordable, but it was clear from the interviews with consumers that although some reported to be able to cover the costs themselves, it was not possible without additional finance from other sources. As such, it appears that costs were not directly affordable for some consumers.’
The SRA said: 'It was clear from the interviews with consumers that although some reported to be able to cover the costs themselves, it was not possible without additional finance from other sources. As such, it appears that costs were not directly affordable for some consumers.'
Examples commonly reported included consumers taking out a loan or using a credit card, or in one case as a result of having access to additional finance through an inheritance.
According to the survey, most of the solicitors who responded (35%) said their motivation for supporting vulnerable clients was related to the reputation of the firm. 30% of respondents said they helped in order to increase their own job satisfaction.
Paul Philip, chief executive of the SRA, said: ‘People who need to use family law services are often in particularly vulnerable situations. It is important that people can find services that meet their needs and that those services are affordable. This research is a contribution to understanding the current landscape and what more can be done to help.’