Solicitor firms are missing out on vital marketing opportunities - and losing ground to the unregulated sector - by not establishing themselves at the top of Google searches, research has found.

Legal Services Board chief executive Richard Moriarty (pictured) said initial research carried out by the organisation found many law firms excluded from the first page of Google in response to basic legal questions.

Moriarty said searches for ‘legal help for divorce’ or ‘where to go for legal advice on a will’ regularly brought up results for unregulated organisations.

When it came to will-writing, he said the majority of results found unregulated providers, while for family issues the search produced a 50/50 split between the regulated and unregulated sectors. In all searches, charity and third-sector organisations featured heavily.

Moriarty, who joined the LSB four months ago, said the analysis highlighted the information faced by many members of the public in the first instance.

‘It also highlights the competition faced by some legal service providers,’ he told a Westminter legal policy forum in London.

‘By our estimate the unregulated sector accounts for some 20-30% of total sector turnover. This raises questions for regulators about the boundaries between the regulated and unregulated sectors; something the LSB will be looking at in more detail later this year.’

Those in the regulated sector, Moriarty said, should be subject to ‘proportionate regulation’, although he stressed that did not equate to a call to ‘dump all the rule books onto the proverbial bonfire’.

He said legal services regulators should follow other sectors by having to provide evidence for introducing or retaining regulation.

He welcomed the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s pledge to reduce its current 430-page handbook, arguing that if Professor Stephen Hawking can use 224 pages to explain ‘A Brief History of Time’ then legal regulators can slim down their rulebooks without putting at risk the public interest.