Engagement with review websites is still relatively low for legal services despite efforts to promote it as a way to choose a lawyer. A review by regulators published today found that just 22% of the public refer to review websites when looking for a legal services provider, compared with 88% who do so when looking for other services or products.

Consumers said they were either happy to go directly to a lawyer they knew or were unaware such sites even existed for the legal market.

Law firms surveyed for the review also appeared to be wary of relying too heavily on review sites. Less than half (44%) actively encouraged existing clients to post reviews on the likes of Google Reviews, ReviewSolicitors or Trustpilot. A similar proportion said they routinely monitor the internet for reviews of their firm.

Of those who do engage with review sites, two thirds use them to help attract new clients and half take account of comments made in reviews as part of their employee reward and recognition approach.

Review sites were used more frequently and were seen as more reliable than price comparison sites.

Only a quarter of consumers said they were aware of comparison sites operating in the legal market and of those, less than half had actually consulted them.

Proactive engagement by firms with comparison sites was virtually non-existent, with lawyers saying they represented a ‘race to the bottom’ with price given priority over quality.

Paul Philip

Philip: Public increasingly expect to find readily available and comparable information online

The Solicitors Regulation Authority, Council for Licensed Conveyancers, and CILEx Regulation ran a year-long pilot scheme looking at how the sector could potentially make improvements in this area. Nine review and comparison sites were included along with 70 law firms, with researchers also interviewing 264 other firms and more than 6,000 consumers to get their views and experiences.

Promoting the use of online information tools has been a key focus of the SRA as part of its efforts to drive greater competition. Although the profession has been slow to embrace online reviews and price comparison compared with other sectors, the Legal Services Consumer Panel’s 2022 consumer tracker suggested that almost half (43%) were doing this, up from 31% 12 months earlier.

The pilot found that in general consumers who used review sites found them useful in helping them to make informed decisions. This was especially if they featured indicators of quality not available on most firms’ sites.

Some firms had concerns about customer reviews in general and how websites protected against fake entries. Another concern was negative comments being posted where the service was good but clients did not receive their preferred outcome.

But firms in the pilot also described seeing commercial benefits from engagement with online reviews - including some of the smallest firms who saw increased contact from consumers as a direct result of online reviews.

SRA chief executive Paul Philip said the public increasingly expect to find readily available and comparable information online to help inform buying decisions. ‘Easy access to the sort of information that allows consumers to compare the quality of the legal services they are looking for benefits both consumers and firms,’ he added. ‘Our pilot demonstrated that while progress is being made in this area, there is clearly still some way to go in both identifying the most useful indicators of quality, and working more closely with those who can help share this data.’


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