More than half of people with ‘consumer’ legal problem choose to resolve it themselves
More people are turning away from traditional legal services providers and trying to deal with their legal problems themselves, according to a new study for the Legal Services Board.
The Legal Services Benchmarking Report was carried out by BDRC Continental and canvassed more than 4,000 individuals across socio-economic groups in the UK (Legal Services Benchmarking - report 11516, June 2012).
Of consumers identified as having a legal need in the past three years, only 38 per cent said they took advice from third parties as 24 per cent with it themselves, with a further 12 per cent enlisting the help of friends.
An additional 3 per cent said they dealt with the matter themselves after failing to obtain advice, while 6 per cent said they initially tried to handle the matter themselves before turning to a third party for assistance.
For LSB strategy director Crispin Passmore (pictured), the findings raised a major question for legal services providers: visibility.
“The question for providers is about being accessible and how they can market themselves to potential clients,” Passmore told Solicitors Journal. “How can solicitors show they can help – and that’s about access to justice: helping people manage and resolve problems.”
Passmore said the UK had a strong record of building consumer confidence and having support organisations that could offer assistance, and that there was no reason this couldn’t be extended to legal services to achieve greater access to justice.
Already just over half (51 per cent) of respondents experiencing a ‘consumer’ problem chose to deal with it themselves without any help.
Of those who handled the problem themselves, a quarter said the problem wouldn’t be difficult to resolve, a further 17 per cent were confident they had the ability to do so, and 11 per cent had enough time.
Only where the problem was more technical would clients seek professional advice – 56 per cent, for instance, of those going through a divorce.
But the findings also showed a lack of engagement by consumers with their legal needs as well as a lack of awareness about what could be done or where they could go for help.
The situation was compounded by the perception that legal advice would be disproportionately expensive and costs appeared to feed inertia in dealing with legal needs, according to the report.
While only 2 per cent said the reason why they did nothing to resolve a legal need was that they didn’t trust lawyers, costs were cited by 28 per cent as a reason. And costs as an obstacle to taking action rose to 40 per cent in the DE segment.
A further divide was confirmed as members of the DE segment were more likely to experience legal problems but less likely to do something about it than those in the AB segment.
Much as people appeared keen to resolve their legal problems themselves, it was solicitors they turned to, overwhelmingly, when seeking professional advice.
Asked who they obtained advice from, 42 per cent replied ‘solicitors’. The next top providers, Citizens Advice Bureaux, were far behind at 12 per cent.
But, the report said, “there are differences between the sorts of people who go to each. Equally these providers deal with different problem types, offer different services and have different objectives.”
The most likely solicitor’s client was a 45-54 year old male in the AB segment, while the average CAB user was a 35-44 year old female (by a 2 per cent margin) from a DE background.
“It’s no real surprise that solicitors and CABx are the largest providers”, said Crispin Passmore, “but the fact that solicitors attract older people begs the question: do we have a legal market that’s answering all the needs or is it skewed?”.