Clients are coming round to the idea of banks and insurers providing consumer legal services, a new opinion poll suggests.
Six years after external providers were allowed to enter the market under the Legal Services Act, research has found the public to be gradually dropping their reluctance to turn to non-law firms.
Pollster YouGov asked more than 2,000 adults to say whether they would be likely to use non-law firms if they provided services such as personal injury claims, wills and probate, conveyancing and family law.
The proportion saying they would use insurance companies is now 29%, compared with 23% when the same question was asked in 2014. The same proportion of respondents would trust a bank to provide legal services, up from 21% three years ago.
More than a quarter of people would trust a building society to provide legal services, although just 14% would be likely to use motoring organisations or estate agents. However 21% would use accountants.
Tom Rees, director of YouGov Reports, said that while many consumers remain unconvinced by alternative legal brands, their reluctance is falling year-on-year.
‘For the first time since we started looking at this subject, there are now more consumers who say they are likely to use banks and insurance companies for legal advice than not,’ said Rees. ‘While these two types of organisation stand out, there is a creeping acceptance among the public that they don’t necessarily have to use law firms.’
The research was first conducted in the wake of the Legal Services Act coming into law. The measure allowed external investors to fund law firms and non-lawyers to provide legal services or manage existing firms.
While there is greater acceptance of external providers, 27% of the public are still unlikely to use either insurance companies or banks to resolve their legal matters.
The YouGov poll also showed that two firms that became alternative business structures under the act are raising their profiles. Irwin Mitchell increased its awareness with the public from 26% to 31%, between December 2014 and January 2017, while awareness of Slater and Gordon shot up from 15% to 35%.
Rees added: ‘The research shows that it is possible for law firms to increase their awareness against this backdrop, with two legal firms, Irwin Mitchell and Slater and Gordon, having done so impressively.’