The opportunities for law firms to reach out to potential clients are outlined in a new paper published by the SRA.

Improving access – tackling unmet legal needs outlines some of the barriers faced by the public and small businesses when they need legal services. It also details ways in which law firms can develop their businesses to address this gap in provision.

Research has shown that only one in ten people or small businesses ask solicitors or barristers for help. Among the barriers people said stops them seeking help from professionals are a lack of information on what is available and perceptions of high costs – with 83 percent of small businesses believing services will be unaffordable.

Many law firms are however already finding ways to bridge the gap, and the SRA is changing the way it works to help more solicitors provide new services in new ways. They have published proposals for the next stage of their Looking to the future programme, which should give firms more flexibility in the way they work.  And they are also working on proposals endorsed by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to find suitable ways for firms to publish more information about their work and prices, if appropriate.  Read the SRA’s response to the CMA’s report and recommendations here.

Crispin Passmore, SRA Executive Director, Policy, said: “We regulate in the public interest, so it makes sense that we do what we can to help the public access the legal services they need. We have already made changes that make it easier for firms to offer accessible and affordable services such as unbundling services, firms reorganising their structures, helping clients that are more vulnerable and taking on more pro bono cases.

“This report looks at some of those examples in more depth, and looks at the ways in which we can play a further role in helping the profession connect with potential clients. That includes freeing up solicitors to work wherever they want, including in businesses outside LSA regulation, and exploring the options on publishing more detailed information about our firms.”

Improving access – tackling unmet legal needs is a supporting paper for the SRA’s Risk Outlook.