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Trust in lawyers goes down, but so does misconduct

New claims on the Compensation Fund fall from just under 3,700 to just over 2,000

25 July 2012

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Public trust in lawyers has gone down, research by the legal services consumer panel has found, but so has misconduct by lawyers.

In its second annual consumer impact report, the panel said public trust in lawyers had declined from 47 per cent to 43 per cent.

Consumers from BME backgrounds had the least confidence in lawyers, with 26 per cent of those from Pakistani backgrounds saying they would generally trust lawyers and 34 per cent of those from black African backgrounds.

However, lawyers are still more trusted than accountants, ‘ordinary people’, shop assistants, bankers, car mechanics, builders and estate agents.

Despite declining levels of trust, the consumer panel survey found that misconduct by lawyers was also going down.

High Court negligence actions against solicitors were down from 210 in the 2011 report to 144, allegations received by the SRA about legal competence down from from 1,323 in the 2011 report to 961.

Allegations to the SRA about fraud, dishonesty and money laundering fell from 847 to 806, and allegations upheld by the regulator decreased by 1,531 to 1,328.

New claims on the Compensation Fund declined the most dramatically, from just under 3,700 to just over 2,000.

Consumer satisfaction with the outcome of work remained high, at 84 per cent.

The impact report also suggested there was more shopping around by consumers, up from 19 per cent to 22 per cent, and people finding it easy to compare providers, from 51 to 57 per cent.

Elisabeth Davies, chair of the consumer panel, said: “Consumers are slowly starting to vote with their feet when choosing legal services but unclear pricing and a lack of confidence continues to hold them back.

“We want to see regulators help to unleash consumer power by targeting their resources on tackling bad pricing practices during 2012-13.

“As in too many other areas of life, poorer consumers and certain ethnic groups are worse off when using legal services – they trust lawyers less, are less satisfied with the service they get, and are less likely to complain. It’s particularly important in this arena that regulators work hard to reduce inequalities.

“It’s disappointing that the approved regulators are still failing to involve consumers in policy design, especially at a time when the pace of policy change is so rapid and when key decisions about regulation are being made.”

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Risk & Compliance