Research published today appears to show the profession is complacent about meeting client expectations, with lawyers commonly overestimating the quality of the service they provide.

Eight in 10 lawyers think they deliver an above-average service, but only four in 10 clients say they are receiving it, says a LexisNexis bellwether report, The Age of the Client.

The report suggests it will be difficult for firms to genuinely differentiate themselves on quality of service if they are overestimating the strength of what they currently offer.

It says: ‘This blinkered viewpoint was backed up in our in-depth interviews, with lawyers quick to criticise other firms for providing poor service, and safe in the belief that their own house is already in order.’

The findings also shows a significant difference in opinion on some clients’ biggest priorities.

Opinion was split on the importance of providing regular progress updates, which was ranked second by clients but 10th by lawyers. Being good at listening was ranked sixth by clients but 12th by lawyers.

By contrast, demystifying the law was given a higher priority by lawyers than clients – it was ranked fourth by lawyers and eighth by clients.

However, both agreed that cost transparency – providing a clear indication of likely costs/works to fixed fee – was the top priority.

William Robins, operations director at Keystone Law, said the differing opinions of clients and lawyers are suggestive of ‘rose-tinted glasses’.

He said: ‘Clients live in a real, competitive, fast-moving world. But the legal profession, while fast-moving these days, still lags some way behind the business world.’

Robins predicted law firms that were not pleasing their clients had ‘two or three years to live’.