The oversight regulator has called for the legal sector to ‘reinvent itself’ despite acknowledging major improvements in the market over the past 10 years.
A 56-page report by the Legal Services Board published today cites many advancements in the market, including greater client satisfaction, more choices for finding legal advice and increased innovation.
But the regulator continues to be concerned that many people’s basic legal needs are still not being met, with up to 3.6 million adults in England and Wales who have a legal issue going without representation every year and half of small businesses handling legal issues alone.
The LSB says it met 72 different organisations, held four evidence sessions and surveyed almost 29,000 people to produce its findings, which are broadly in line with other reports made by the oversight regulator in recent years.
Despite 84% of legal service customers being satisfied with the service they receive, the LSB suggests that people struggle to find the best deal, with 30% of them shopping around before choosing a law firm and only 2% using a comparison service.
Dr Helen Phillips, LSB chair, said that many of the critical challenges facing the sector today existed when the Legal Services Act came into force more than 10 years ago. It continues to be difficult for people to know when they have a legal problem and to engage with the legal services market and shop around.
Phillips added: ‘However, as our report lays out, there is an opportunity for the sector to reinvent itself and embrace a culture that puts the needs of consumers at its heart. If we are successful, we will reduce unmet need and provide a much more equal experience for consumers.
‘Shopping around will be the norm, and people will find it easier to find and compare providers and reward firms offering high quality and affordable services.’
The Legal Services Board will consult on a new strategy for the sector this winter and plans work with organisations both inside and outside the profession to address issues identified in the report.