High street firms have ‘power’ and are known in their communities, the first phase of a consumer research project conducted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority has revealed.

The study to look at how the public access legal services was commenced last month and announced today. Over the rest of the year the SRA will travel to towns and cities across England and Wales to gauge the opinions of local people on the legal services market.

The research will seek to identify the problems consumers face when using a legal service and how outcomes could be improved.

The SRA team will also talk to law firms, and information providers such as Citizens Advice, charities, law centres and trade unions to understand how the public obtains information about legal services and how this could be improved.

SRA head of research Tim Livesley said: ‘It's great to be out on the road talking to legal services consumers across the country. We hope to improve our understanding of the barriers to consumers achieving good outcomes with a legal services provider, and what types of information can help break down some of these barriers.’

The regulator’s policy officer for consumer affairs Richard Silver said: ‘We found that many people were familiar with firms with local offices, which indicates the power the high street practice still has in some communities.

The next phases of the research project are scheduled for Birmingham later this month.

The SRA plans to publish the research report in early 2013.