Law firm clients remain ‘in the dark’ over the performance of solicitors, the sector's consumer watchdog reports today – pledging to do more to ensure information is published.
In its annual report, published today, the Legal Services Consumer Panel notes positive signs that consumers are changing their behaviour by shopping around for legal providers.
It concedes that consumers are increasingly satisfied with value for money, perhaps due to more firms offering fixed fees. But the use of comparison websites and quality marks has remained ‘stubbornly low’, and consumers still have no way of knowing the standards of their lawyer, the report says.
According to recent surveys, 2% of the public have used a price comparison site to help them select a legal representative, with consumers facing ‘limited’ free choice of lawyer.
The report says discussions to persuade legal regulators to publish information about providers have been largely successful, but there is more still to do.
‘That all bar one of the regulators have now published a basic dataset in a reusable format is a significant first step,’ said panel chair Elisabeth Davies (pictured).
‘Next year is about the second step - we want to understand what other data is held and what more could be published to help inform consumer choice.’
The panel said it has been commissioned by the Legal Services Board to look into what information can be collected from firms themselves to help consumers make informed choices. The organisation will also seek funding to research the accuracy of legal information websites.
Over the next year, the panel plans to look at a first ever quantitative survey on litigants in person. It will also lobby the Legal Ombudsman to establish a voluntary complaints scheme for unregulated providers and accept third party complaints in certain circumstances.
In the longer term, the panel will focus on legislative reforms to modern legal regulation, to reduce ‘duplication, inconsistency and waste’ in the current arrangements.
Spending by the panel, which is funded by contributions from the legal sector, was £204,319 in 2014/15 – a rise of almost £4,000 compared with the year before.