Many small businesses still see taking legal advice as a costly last resort, the Legal Services Board said today.

The conclusion emerges from research showing that the large majority of small businesses have had little contact with legal advisers in the past 12 months. The incidence of legal problems faced by the sector is 'markedly down' on 2013.

According to the report, the second into the legal needs of small businesses:

• Fewer than one in 10 firms employed in-house lawyers or had a retainer with an external provider;

• When advice was sought, accountants were consulted more often than lawyers;

• Only 13% of small businesses viewed lawyers as cost-effective – little improved since the last survey, in 2013;

• Almost 50% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed with the statement that they use legal service providers as a last resort to solve business problems compared with 12% who disagreed strongly or disagreed.

Sir Michael Pitt (pictured), chair of the LSB, said: 'Access to good-quality and affordable legal services helps small businesses to start up and grow. This research - the largest ever survey of its kind - provides further worrying evidence that their legal needs are not being satisfactorily met.'

However he said the findings present an opportunity: 'There continues to be a huge section of the business community whose legal needs are not being catered for. This is an opening which the legal sector should be addressing.'