There has been much in the news lately in relation to access to justice in the criminal courts, and, what appears to be the beginning of the end of legal aid; But what about the civil counterparts? Legal Aid hasn’t really existed in civil law for a many years now, but is this the reason that so few people are seeking professional, regulated assistance with their legal issues?
Over the last 3 years 54% of UK adults have experienced a legal issue, and yet only 30% of these actively sought advice and support. Moreover, of that 30%, only 56% of them sought assistance from a regulated professional. Therefore, a staggering 83% of individuals with a legal issue failed to seek professional help at all. WHY?
I believe that many people fail to instruct a professional because, regardless of how trendy you think your firm is or what innovative products you bring to the legal market; the industry still fails to shed its old fashioned reputation. I have worked in the legal industry for almost 20 years and although the firms I have been involved with have always strived to move away from this stigma, many of my peers outside the industry still carry these outdated views.
It’s fair to say that consumers have become much more savvy when it comes to spending their hard-earned money, especially when it comes to intangible services like legal advice. Regardless of the issues involved, most of us begrudge spending money on something we can’t see. So how do we, as professional firms, change the views of the masses and rid the industry of its antiquated reputation?
When we buy other intangible services like insurance for example, we tend to shop around much more. With the advent of the price comparison site, it’s far easier to compare prices and level of service than it ever has been. Why can’t our industry follow suit? The SRA (Solicitors Regulatory Authority) recently sought the views of those within the industry on Regulatory data and consumer choice in legal services. The conclusions are yet to be published; however there is a strong bias to a more transparent, and open industry, and promoting greater competition in the form of comparisons.
Would a comparison site for legal work result in an influx of new instructions? I suspect for the smaller firm and those dealing directly with individual consumers it may be a welcomed marketing tool, however for the larger corporate firm, it may be somewhat futile.
Price aside for the moment, people love reviews! Just look at how many review sites there are; there are reviews for travel, products, hotels, car rentals, banks & Building societies; you name it, you can probably find a dozen sites with a review about it. So why are there so few for professional firms? Perhaps we are scared of knowing the truth, or inviting complaints? Or maybe we’re concerned that it’s too easy for a client who lost their case to offer a poor review? My view is to embrace all reviews, and learn from them, not just as an individual case, but together as the legal community and continue to strive to offer a greater service to the consumers in order to continue to reverse the outdated stereotype of the business.
I am a firm believer in being open and honest with clients. After all, I’m from Yorkshire where we tell it like it is. Provide a good quality service, for a reasonable fee, and give the client value for money. At [Name removed], we provide this hearty Yorkshire service, with realistic advice, and a transparent approach to billing. Gone are the days of hourly rates and guessing how long a case may take and in with fixed and capped fees; provided upfront to offer real certainty in a turbulent world.