Two-thirds of consumers would not want to buy their legal services through non-legal brands, according to a survey of 2,000 clients seen exclusively by the Gazette.

In the poll by law firm referral service Contact Law, 66% of consumers said they would not be happy to buy legal services through non-legal brands such as the AA or Tesco, while 34% said they would.

The vast majority of consumers (84%) said that service was more important than price when purchasing legal services. Clients were broadly satisfied with solicitors’ costs, with 59% saying the fees they were charged by their most recent lawyer were justified. However, 41% did not feel the fees were fair, and 90% said they would prefer to be given a fixed quote at the outset.

While 17% of clients described themselves as ‘very loyal’ towards their most recent solicitor, and 33% said they were ‘loyal’, the remaining 50% said they would happily go elsewhere next time.

Some 61% of consumers said they would rather use a local solicitor, while 5% said they would prefer not to use a local firm, and 34% said they didn’t mind.

Consumers were generally pleased with the service they received from their solicitor, with a third of those polled giving their lawyer the top rating for service, and a further 18% giving the next highest rating on the scale. However, a quarter of respondents gave their lawyers the lowest rating, indicating dissatisfaction with the service they received.

Solicitors also scored highly for their expertise, and ability to explain legal jargon in layman’s terms.

Contact Law director Dan Watkins said: ‘With the legal services landscape about to radically change, many traditional law firms are understandably concerned about the future. The results of our poll, providing an insight into consumer sentiment, suggest that law firms have plenty to think about.

‘Although two-thirds of consumers surveyed said they wouldn't be happy buying their legal service through a non-legal provider, the worry is that a third would be happy to do so, and this is before the likes of Tesco have started cranking up their marketing machines. Those law firms that could not sustain a 33% drop in business would have to make some serious changes to their practices if they were to survive.

‘One source of comfort is that the majority of consumers polled said they preferred to use a local, high street lawyer, although at the same time, half said they weren't that loyal to their solicitor and would happily go elsewhere, demonstrating that competition between traditional law firms is already a significant factor. Retaining clients and establishing loyalty will be even tougher in the ABS era.’

He added: ‘Although 84% of consumers said that service was more important than price when choosing a solicitor, it is worth noting that this is most often the case once a client and solicitor have already established a relationship. For someone contacting a solicitor for the first time, price is likely to be a key factor in their decision-making process, and with ABS firms talking about offering fixed-priced legal services, and our survey showing that a staggering 90% of consumers would prefer a fixed quote upfront, competition for new clients is going to hot up even more in future.'