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More clients shopping around

31 May 2012

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The number of clients shopping around before they decide on a law firm is rising along with satisfaction over value for money, a survey for the legal services consumer panel has found.

The panel’s tracker survey also found that 58 per cent of clients had a fixed-fee deal.

Researchers contacted 1,800 members of the public earlier this year and a separate sample of 1,435 clients who had used law firms in the past two years.

It found that 22 per cent of clients shopped around, a three per cent increase on the previous year’s tracker survey, and 57 per cent said they found it easy to compare firms, a six per cent rise. Satisfaction in terms of value for money increased by three per cent.

“It’s good to see signs of consumers starting to use their buying muscle, although this needs to be just the beginning of a major power shift,” Elisabeth Davies, chair of the panel, said.

“Consumers clearly want fixed-fee deals, especially in tough times – and increasingly they are shopping around to get better value for money.”

The number of people using at least one legal service in the past two years went down by four per cent to 27 per cent.

There were significant falls in conveyancing, probate administration and family matters.

Researchers found that there was a big increase in the numbers of people who did nothing when dissatisfied, from 35 to 42 per cent, but a similar increase, from 13 to 21 per cent, in those who made a formal complaint.

Trust in lawyers among the general public fell slightly, in line with similar falls for doctors and teachers. Lawyers are still more trusted than accountants and shop assistants.

There was wide variation among ethnic groups in the proportion who said they trusted lawyers. It was highest among those from white British backgrounds, and lowest among those from Pakistani backgrounds. Black African clients were less trusting of lawyers than those from Black Caribbean families.