Clients very satisfied with solicitors, research shows
Most people are satisfied with their solicitors, the results of the largest ever legal needs survey in England and Wales has revealed.
It also revealed 28 per cent of people were advised via a free service.
Most individuals said their solicitors gave them value for money and just one in five had shopped around.
The rest were happy with the first service they found (33 per cent), had trusted a recommendation (28 per cent) or it was a simple matter.
However, the public needs a better understanding of legal issues and “clear, accessible pathways to get professional legal advice”, the Law Society President Simon Davis said in response to the survey results.
The survey of 28,633 individuals, a nationally representative sample of the general public, was conducted for the Law Society and the Legal Services Board by YouGov.
It looked at their experiences across 34 different legal issues based on data collected online between February and March last year.
It was the first study in the jurisdiction using OECD guidance on how to develop legal needs surveys.
A report, Legal Needs of Individuals in England and Wales, provides in-depth analysis of the results and reveals 90 per cent of individuals were satisfied with their solicitor’s service (compared with 74 per cent where the service came from unregulated providers); and 84 per cent said their solicitors gave them value for money.
However, some firms lacked transparency when it came to pricing, with a quarter of respondents reporting difficulties in searching for prices.
Almost two thirds (64 per cent) of adults reported having a legal problem in the last four years.
Of those, 53 per cent had a contentious problem but nearly a third (31 per cent) of these who had their issue resolved experienced problems getting the help they needed – or it took at least two years to resolve.
Legal ‘capability’ emerged as a key issue affecting client outcomes.
The survey found that people were more likely to seek professional help if they understood their issue was legal, rather than, for example, financial.
It also found those with low legal confidence have less understanding of their rights and are less likely to get professional help; less satisfied with the service they receive – and less likely to think they had a fair outcome.
The research also revealed that 57 per cent of those who took advice from lawyers received it without paying for it personally.
Half of them had a free service and others were funded through insurance or friends and family.
Simon Davis commented: “The findings show when people do get professional legal advice – particularly from a solicitor – they are more able to resolve legal problems effectively, and far more likely to view the justice system as fair, even if they lose their case.”
"While most people resolve minor legal issues – like faulty goods or parking fines – without professional advice, it is a cornerstone of justice that everyone should be able to get professional legal advice when they need it, regardless of wealth or status.”
Unsurprisingly, there was strong support among respondents (92 per cent) for legal aid.
Davis said the survey shows “near unequivocal support for legal aid but as people do not understand which issues are covered or if they are eligible, many who should have publicly funded legal advice simply will not get it”.
He added: “Our future justice system should be one that prioritises public legal education so people understand their rights, legal issues and how to access justice.
"The Law Society believes in evidence-based policy-making.”
He said the Society hopes the survey results will help legal service providers and government better understand and serve the legal needs of the public.
The Legal Services Board Chair, Dr Helen Phillips, acknowledged that the survey “reveals a significant access to justice gap”.
She commented: “For a variety of reasons people do not always seek legal advice. Many fail to identify the issues they face as being legal in nature.
"They perhaps class it as a housing issue or a financial problem or put it down to bad luck.”
She said it is “vital we remove barriers that prevent people accessing help”.
“This”, she added, “includes building legal capability and encouraging people to shop around for services.
“When people understand their legal rights and responsibilities, it makes a real difference to their confidence and their ability to access justice.”