Legal Needs: Research Data Available

A quick blogpost about the Legal Services Board’s latest research on legal needs. This survey a broader version of similar studies in the legal aid sphere, makes for interesting reading. There were 4,017 respondents to the survey. Just under half of all adults believed that they had experienced at least one legal need in the last three years. Of these, the most common were consumer problems (29%) and debt (27%). I have quickly put together a summary leaning heavily on the text of the Executive Summary (I have not distinguished between quote and paraphrasing for speed with apologies to the author).

When confronted with a legal need [only] 44% of respondents took some form of professional advice. Whilst this was because many though nothing could be done about their legal need (36%) or they were waiting for the legal need to resolve itself (16%). In many cases the legal need had indeed already been resolved or the process had run its course. This is not the same as the legal need being well resolved.

Reserved legal needs made up less than 20% of all the expressed legal needs. On the other hand, regulated providers were involved in 47% of legal needs that required advice, and delivered the majority of advice in areas such as conveyancing, probate, divorce and will writing. Unregulated providers were more likely to help with money and benefit problems, neighbour.

Problem type strongly influences where people go for legal advice (not a new finding but worth emphasising).

Face to face advice continues to dominate the provision of legal advice, but again this varies by problem and provider type and there is the potential for face to face to be used for marketing rather than advice giving/case management purposes, which needs a careful eye on it.

The report states with interest that different service providers, offering very different services, tended to have broadly similar rates of consumer satisfaction. I am not very surprised by that. As unpopular as it is to say it, consumers are not very sophisticated consumers of legal service. That they do not distinguish significantly between different types of provider does not tell us very much at all. Consumers have very different expectations of what service they will get from different providers.

For me the report cools the idea that consumers are strengthening their competitive muscles. Older clients tend to choose on the basis of experience and younger on the basis of provider reputation and locality. How reputation is constructed and understood will be a key battleground over which Co-Op, Quality Solicitors, and, J Bloggs and Ptnrs continue to duke it out. Price wise, few people, when presented with a price or quotation, negotiated with the provider on the fee (of only 8% of cases where there was a negotiation 77% were successful in reducing it).

A final point worthy of note to all business analysts and researchers is the LSB has made their data available for further analysis. This is a development to be strongly applauded. You can find it here. Happy hunting.

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About Richard Moorhead

Director of the Centre for Ethics and Law and Professor of Law and Professional Ethics at the Faculty of Laws, University College London with an interest in teaching and research on the legal ethics, the professions, legal aid, access to justice and the courts.
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