Nearly half of individuals dissatisfied with legal services do not complain, the Legal Services Consumer Panel says today.
The figure of 44% is far higher than the 27% of disgruntled customers who fail to complain in the services sector overall.
The panel, which identified the figure in its latest annual tracker survey, says this suggests barriers to complaining to law firms are 'higher than for many other types of organisation'.
The chair urged more efforts to 'rebuild confidence in the sector'.
However the survey also shows that overall levels of satisfaction with legal services are holding steady, at 79%. Levels of public trust are also up, with 43% of the public trusting lawyers to tell the truth, up from 42% last year. In this league lawyers rank behind doctors and teachers but marginally ahead of accountants and well ahead of bankers.
Will-writing is the highest-rated market for client satisfaction - though the consumer panel points out that 'consumers are poorly placed to assess the technical quality of work'.
White people in more affluent social groups are more likely to trust lawyers than C2DEs and black and minority ethnic clients.
The consumer panel says that public trust in professionals generally has fallen since 2011. Elisabeth Davies, the panel's chair (pictured), said she hoped that this fall in confidence had now bottomed out – but that 'this news doesn't mask what is far from an ideal state of affairs'.
She said the panel's research shows a link between customer service failings and low trust in lawyers. 'A relentless focus on transparency and good service would help to rebuild confidence in the sector and encourage more people to use legal services.'
The survey data shows consumers are benefiting from increased competition in the sector, she said, but said access to justice would be threatened by 'inequalities of trust and experience'.
A Law Society spokesperson said: 'Law is a contentious area and, for many complainants who are facing serious difficulties, is a distress purchase. The fact that there is 79% satisfaction with lawyers' services in these circumstances is a tribute to thousands of dedicated lawyers providing high-quality services in their clients' interests.
'As with any service industry, there will be cases where things do not go right and the Law Society is keen to support solicitors to provide great service. In addition, the protections available to clients are unrivalled. All solicitors and firms have their own customer complaints procedures. These often solve problems without matters having to reach the SRA or Legal Ombudsman. All clients should be made of aware of these internal complaints procedures.
'Consumers can be reassured that solicitors are highly regulated and insured and there is a compensation fund in the unlikely event that something goes wrong.'