Legal regulators should take their lead from other sectors to remove language barriers for consumers seeking out lawyers, the oversight regulator has recommended.
A report published today by the Legal Services Board says other sectors, particularly in financial services, healthcare and utilities, have devoted ‘significant resources and effort’ to making their services accessible to consumers.
Lessons can be learned and applied to the legal sector from these industries, without devoting huge resources to the task.
LSB chief executive Neil Buckley (pictured), said: ‘We know that a high proportion of consumers with a legal problem do not seek legal advice. Many of the barriers experienced are not unique to legal services.
‘Our new report brings together a series of examples of how these problems are tackled in other sectors.
‘The report has been drafted to assist the work of the approved regulators. In drawing attention to ways of tackling these barriers we want to complement and supplement the existing work that regulators are undertaking.’
The report focused on three non-financial barriers to legal access: inaccessible language, lack of trust and failure to cater for the needs of vulnerable consumers.
The LSB says it sought advice or ideas from a range of bodies, including the Financial Conduct Authority, the General Dental Council and Department for Work and Pensions.
On the communication issue, the length of and reliance on terms and conditions were found to prevent consumers from progressing a matter, or seeking advice again in the future. They also contributed to decreased trust in a provider and in lawyers more generally.
The report said firms should try to layer information they present to clients, so that certain key information is drawn out and presented up-front or in bold.
Regulators in other sectors, such as the energy and financial industries, have made summary disclosure a necessary element of mandatory disclosure requirements, and the LSB will look at ways of bringing this into legal regulation.
The LSB noted the legal profession is not the only one to be associated with jargon and technical language, but one way to improve this may be to provide lawyers with guides or toolkits to help them break down phrases or words to make them more understandable.
Providers and regulators in the legal sector can also do more to emphasise firms’ status as regulated entities, developing logos or other visual representations to use on firms’ websites as a mark of regulation.