“Low public confidence about complaining means too many consumers choose to suffer in silence”, according to a recent legal services report.
One of the findings of The Legal Services Consumer Panel Impact Report, published in December 2014, finds that a sizeable forty-four percent of dissatisfied consumers who believe they have been victims of professional negligence by their solicitors will not make a complaint.
Created by the Legal Services Act 2007, the Legal Services Consumer Panel works to transform the legal services market around the needs of its users. Findings from the Report, which uses an annual tracker survey, have led the Panel to believe that members of the public still lack information on a lawyer’s performance which would help them compare options.
As a consequence, the report indicates that the technical quality of legal advice remains “largely unknown.” Service satisfaction among consumers remains unchanged at 79 per cent, nearly double the 43 per cent of the public who say they trust lawyers.
In 2014, the number of allegations over legal competence received by the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) totalled 2,206 and the number of cases allocated for investigation by the Legal Ombudsman last year was four fold at 8,320.
Concern was also voiced by the Panel over the emergence of ‘DIY law’ as market solutions to improve affordability, and brings into serious question the ability for some members of the public to have access to justice and consumer protection. While the percentage of consumers who are able to “shop around” for solicitor services is up from 18 per cent in 2011 to 22 per cent in 2014, the percentage of private law cases involving litigants in person reached 74 per cent.
Findings from the report lead the Panel to conclude that “public confidence in the market and the consumer experience of using legal services still varies far too widely depending on social background.” Poorer consumers trust lawyers less, feel less protected and are less satisfied with the service they receive.
According to the Panel, the way forward is to place consumers “at the heart of regulation and improving access to justice. Reforms cannot be considered a success if some sections of society are getting left behind.”