News releases

Finding out what consumers really want

Easy-to-understand charges and a solicitor who remembers their names are what clients would like to see as standard when they visit a law firm, while "hidden extras" are certain to cause complaints, new research has revealed.

It also showed that while most people had a high level of trust in the legal profession and the people working in it, many were unaware about how to complain if something went wrong.

In-depth interviews with people who had purchased legal services in the last year revealed that word-of-mouth recommendations played a key role in consumers choosing a solicitor but that consumer knowledge of the legal market was found to be low, while "shopping around" or doing price comparisons was "very rare".

Results from recently published consumer research will help the SRA bring about major transformations in the way solicitors are regulated.

Conducted by GfK NOP Social Research, it aimed to identify "consumer confusion" over legal services and gauge customer awareness about how the profession is regulated.

Now the SRA is to fund further research to identify specific consumer protection issues. It hopes the findings will help smooth the way for the introduction of alternative business structures (ABS), a new form of legal practice that will allow non-lawyer organisations to provide legal services, and lawyers much greater flexibility in the way they practise.

It could also strengthen the SRA's argument against the scrapping of the "separate business rule"'. The rule prevents solicitors or firms from offering non-reserved legal services through a separate, unregulated business—thus protecting consumers from purchasing any services from solicitors that are not fully regulated.

A separate report, presented by Vision One Research, said that, value for money, combined with quick and efficient service, came top of the "must have" list when people were seeking legal advice.

SRA Policy Officer Richard Silver is currently involved in the Consumer Affairs work programme. He said that the research results hadn't come as a surprise and appeared to back up the thinking behind outcomes-focused regulation.

"Consumers have strong views about what they expect from a solicitor. They don't want to be bothered with jargon and detail, they want value, fair treatment and a result with which they are satisfied.

"Solicitors should also give clients opportunities to complain if they are not happy with the service they receive, and provide good information about how to complain.

"We now want to use this research to help solicitors meet those requirements."

Copies of the research summaries can be found on line at


Note to editors

Print page to PDF