UK’s Largest Legal Report Shines Light On Sector

Two thirds (64%) of UK adults have faced a legal issues over the past four years with over half (53%) of issues considered contentious.

According to a joint report commissioned by The Law Society and The Legal Services Board, the main reasons people sought legal advice between 2016 and the end of 2019 were defective goods/services (26%), anti-social behaviour (14%), buying or selling property (11%), making or amending a Will (11%) and employment issues (11%).

However, the report highlighted a lack of consumer understanding as a factor preventing more people from accessing legal services. Only 16% of clients with a contentious legal issue were able to identify the problem as ‘legal’.

Instead, many misdiagnosed their issues which prevented them from pursuing legal counsel as almost a third (28%) interpreted legal issues as ‘economic’ or ‘financial’ in nature.

Diagnosing and seeking legal help is crucial in fostering a feeling of receiving a fair outcome. 66% of those who instructed professional legal help felt as though they received a fair outcome compared to 53% who did not benefit from legal advice.

A third of people dealing with a contentious issue which was resolved without the help of a legal service professional regret not asking for more help or their issue took longer than two years to resolve.

The report also highlighted the excellent work solicitors carry out for their clients. 90% of respondents were satisfied with the work completed by their solicitor with 84% of respondents finding their solicitor to be good value for money.

Similarly, 74% were also satisfied by the work unregulated legal service professionals completed on their behalf.

Despite price transparency regulations enjoying their 1st birthday on December 6th last year, a quarter (24%) of respondents still find it difficult to search for legal prices.

Those who are offered a price during the initial communication stage tend to be more satisfied (94%) in the legal service they receive than those who do not get an initial quote (84%).

Respondents are still failing to shop around for their legal services with only a fifth (21%) researching around for their legal service provider. 33% were happy with the first law firm they found and 28% relied on recommendations.

Law Society of England and Wales President Simon Davis commented:

“This extensive survey brings home the need to build better public understanding of legal issues and clear, accessible pathways to get professional legal advice. People need to know how to use the legal system to manage the complexities of daily life, whether that’s housing, family issues or employment.

“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.

“However, legal aid has been decimated by swingeing cuts. This 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.

“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. We hope the results of this survey, co-commissioned with the oversight regulator the LSB, 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 said:

“People often need legal services at the most important times of life, and sometimes when they are at their most vulnerable. Whether they’re buying, selling or renting property, seeking redress following a poor service, or a victim of crime, everyone should be able to access professional support if they need it.

“However, this survey reveals a significant access to justice gap. 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. This means they then don’t seek for the right kind of help.

“Those who get legal support are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome, so it’s vital we remove barriers that prevent people 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.”

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