The Legal Services Board (the LSB) started its work on 1 January 2010. After a few days off, they soon got to work on the 4 January. You may have seen the results of their first commissioned YouGov survey which determined that more than two-thirds of consumers have ‘little or no knowledge’ of what lawyers do. This isn’t just about what we do to justify the excessive bills we produce or how we spend our time in the office (current snow storms permitting), but what the role of a lawyer actually is. Good work. Let’s hope the next survey of lawyers doesn’t come back with the same result. It is probably not surprising then, that less than half of those surveyed felt able to judge the quality of service they are provided. Hurrah! It gets even better: 77% said they had not shopped around to find the best value (cheapest) lawyer and more than three-quarters were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the service they had been provided with.
Surely this wasn’t the result that the LSB was hoping for? So much for starting with a bang! The Chairman, David Edmonds has recognised that consumers don’t have the information or skills to choose a lawyer. Surely that’s why they need a lawyer in the first place! But the bad news then starts: the LSB’s goal is “to enhance the interests of consumers through effective competition and more innovative ways of delivering legal services.” So rather than an expensive national campaign to educate the country on what a lawyer is expected to do, the LSB are instead suggesting that lawyers embrace innovation and compete on price.
I am sure that many firms are already contemplating their own standing, appeal and position in the market given the imminent and much anticipated overhaul of legal services. The survey gives us a glimmer of hope with only 13% of respondents saying they would buy legal services from the supermarket. However, I believe similar statistics were produced from surveys 15 years ago when consumers were asked if they would buy milk from the supermarket.
It would be foolish to rest on our laurels. Times are changing and soon we will be held to account for our methods of charging, photocopying fees and time spent on ‘research’. So in haste I am now starting work on a new fully illustrated client information leaflet. I’ve already got a title in mind: Janet and John go to the Solicitors. In all good supermarkets soon!