Lawyers Rank Top for Service Satisfaction in Legal Needs Survey
Posted by Paul Huckerby
Lawyers in England and Wales ranked highest for service satisfaction in the largest ever legal needs survey conducted by the Legal Services Board and Law Society. The survey revealed a glowing endorsement of the quality of service provided by solicitors, but also showed gaps in access to justice which need to be addressed. The survey of the Legal Needs of Individuals in England and Wales - the largest of its kind - reveals the advantages of the public understanding the legal landscape and seeking professional legal advice. Based on data collected by YouGov online between February and March 2019 from 28,663 people, the survey covered 34 different legal issues and is the first study to use OECD guidance on how to develop legal needs surveys, profiling the population by income and decision-making capabilities. Six in ten adults (64%) experienced a legal problem in the last four years, including 53% who faced a contentious problem. Most common were issues with a defective service or professional (26%), anti-social behaviour by neighbours (14%), buying or selling a property (11%), making or changing a will (11%), and employment-related issues (11%). Solicitors ranked highest for service satisfaction - 90% of people were satisfied with the service they had received from a solicitor (compared to 74% from unregulated providers) and 84% thought that their solicitor provided value for money. Respondents of the survey were most likely to choose a solicitor as their main adviser - 30% rising to 40% for a contentious issue - and doctors, advisers in the not-for-profit sector, law centres and Citizens Advice Bureau made up 32% of all main advisers. Despite the endorsement for solicitors, the legal needs survey also reveals significant gaps in access to justice. Legal issues can have a serious negative impact on people's lives, and the survey found that nearly one in three people faced with a contentious issue either didn't seek professional legal help, wanted help but couldn't get any, or had to wait more than two years for a resolution. On top of this, of the two-thirds who did receive help, only 55% was from professional services and 11% from friends and family. Low levels of legal confidence (and income), less understanding of their legal rights, and low perceptions that justice is accessible were the main reasons people were less likely to seek legal professional help. This includes the perception it would be too expensive, thinking it would make no difference, not knowing where or how to get advice, and believing it would be too difficult to get professional help for contentious issues. The survey also revealed demographic discrepancies when assessing whether people would seek professional legal help. Older people were most likely to seek the help of a solicitor and 45% of those aged 65+ would obtain advice from just one provider, whereas people aged 18-29 tend to shop around and find information on 4+ providers. The Legal Services Board has said that it will act upon this fresh evidence of an 'access to justice gap' to pursue its deregulatory agenda. The LSB Chair Dr Helen Phillips said: "This survey reveals a significant access to justice gap. For a variety of reasons people do not always seek legal advice - it's vital that we remove barriers that prevent people from accessing help. This 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." Simon Davis, President of the Law Society of England and Wales echoes this sentiment, saying that this survey "brings home the need to build better public understanding of legal issues and clear, accessible pathways to get professional legal advice. Our future justice system should be one that prioritises public legal education so people understand their rights, legal issues and how to access justice". People often need the help of legal services at the most important and often vulnerable times. Whether they're seeking redress from a poor service, buying or selling property, or a victim of crime, everyone should be in a position where they know their legal rights and are able to access professional support if they need it. The gaps revealed by this extensive survey will hopefully assist the government and legal service providers in understanding and serving the legal needs of the people in England and Wales. For more information on this article, or to speak to us about hiring the right legal professional for your organisation, contact Paul Huckerby on 020 7269 6367 or firstname.lastname@example.org.