LSB: Ditch jargon, help the vulnerable, and improve trust in lawyers
Removing barriers will enable demand for legal services to be met, says regulator
A lack of trust in lawyers and a failure to cater for the needs of the vulnerable are restricting consumers' access to the legal services market, a new report has found.
The report, published by the Legal Services Board (LSB), also highlighted the continued use of legal jargon employed by legal businesses and suggested that the market consider how other sectors communicate with clients.
The LSB's chief executive, Neil Buckley, commented: 'We know that a high proportion of consumers with a legal problem do not seek legal advice. Many of the barriers experienced are not unique to legal services.
'Our new report brings together a series of examples of how these problems are tackled in other sectors.
'The report has been drafted to assist the work of the approved regulators. In drawing attention to ways of tackling these barriers we want to complement and supplement the existing work that regulators are undertaking.'
To improve consumers' access to the market, the LSB has looked to the approaches taken by the financial services, healthcare, and utilities industries.
The 27-page report encourages clear disclosure of key consumer information, as a reliance on terms and conditions in lengthy client care letters can prevent clients progressing matters or seeking advice in the future, and also contributed to decreasing levels of trust in the legal profession.
Less than half of respondents to a recent Legal Services Consumer Panel (LSCP) survey said they trusted lawyers to tell the truth. Teachers and doctors were more likely to be trusted.
The development of plain and simple English language guides to explain regulation to clients was also highlighted as a way to increase trust in the sector.
The report also suggests that trust can be built with consumers through the development of logos or 'other visual representations' for legal service providers to show they are regulated.
Unmet legal need remains a concern for the super regulator. The LSB confirmed it intends to undertake further research aimed at improving the understanding of how vulnerable consumers access legal services.
In 2012 the super regulator's 'Legal Needs Survey' identified that 'less than half of legal needs resulted in the individual obtaining advice, assistance or professional help'.
Similarly, the 'Small Business Legal Needs Survey' in 2015 found that 'over half of firms experiencing a problem tried to resolve it by themselves'.