Declining public confidence in the professions continues to take its toll on lawyers, according to an annual survey commissioned by watchdog the Legal Services Consumer Panel.
A YouGov survey of 1,702 adults found that 42% trust lawyers to tell the truth, down from 47% in 2011. The research suggests the public are also less confident that their consumer rights will be protected when they use lawyers.
The decline is mirrored in other professions, the research acknowledges. Lawyers remain more trusted than accountants, bankers and estate agents, but less trusted than teachers and doctors.
The research shows that 46% of the general public are confident their rights as consumers would be protected when using lawyers, a 3% drop from the previous year and a 7% fall since 2011.
People in Wales, social classes C2DE (generally working class) and black and minority ethnic groups are less confident their consumer rights will be protected than the general population.
Where consumers were not satisfied with the service they have received from a lawyer, 42% said they did nothing about it, the same percentage as last time.
The study did not ask people why they did not trust lawyers, but the Legal Services Board has carried out research into the reasons, which will be published next week.
Commenting, panel chair Elisabeth Davies said: ‘Government wants consumers to play their part in stimulating growth through their shopping habits, but our evidence shows they are becoming less trusting of professionals and less confident that regulation will protect them.
‘The legal services reforms will not fulfil their potential unless this situation is addressed.’
She said the panel’s recent research showed the need to maintain a ‘strong safety net’ to protect consumers as the market liberalises.
‘Consumers need assurance that quality standards will be upheld, that regulators are active and on their side, and that whatever their legal need, they can complain to an independent body if things go wrong,’ she added.
A Law Society spokesman said: ‘It is clear deference towards institutions, professions and individuals is in decline.
‘Respect for lawyers remains higher than that for most other professions. Nevertheless, we would be interested in exploring with the panel, Legal Ombudsman and other legal bodies how we might work together to reinforce public trust.’