Legal Services Consumer Panel shows that consumers are shopping blind

The Legal Services Consumer Panel has published a report on consumer decision making. The research shows that consumers indicators such as length of practice and website design when making their decisions.

The Panel has called for independent information to be provided to consumers, with information including transparent costs and previous client reviews and testimonials.

Sarah Chambers, Chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, said:

“There has been a patent lack of strategic direction and a sluggish pace in addressing consumers’ need for reliable, comparable quality indicators, almost four years after the Competition and Markets Authority’s findings that lack of information on price and quality hampered competition.

Legal service regulators must now respond by doing two things. Firstly, they must work towards a clear strategic goal of establishing a sector-wide framework for quality indicators. This framework should be rooted in an articulation of what good looks like for consumers. Secondly, regulators must accelerate their pace in this area. The CMA is scheduled to reassess the sector at the end of the year. If they find that little to no progress has been made on this issue, this could create a reputational risk for regulators as it might suggest that consumers are not at the heart of regulation. And of course, consumers will continue to be left without the basic information they need to choose a lawyer.”

Read the full LSCP report

Recently the LSCP has also joined calls for ongoing competence assessments of legal professionals, writing to the LSB to advocate for the move.

Read the LSCP’s letter. 

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Washington State Bar Association to appeal ending of LLLTs

The Washington State Bar Association is set to seek review of the state Supreme Court’s decision to end the limited licence legal technician (LLLT) program in the state. At the LLLT board meeting on June the 8th the board decided to request the Supreme court review the decision or at least provide longer for those currently training to complete their licensing requirements.

The review comes in the wake of the June 5th decision by the Supreme Court to “sunset” the LLLT program. The court felt that the costs were too high for the limited participation in the program, and ruled that all those aiming to become licensed must do so by 31st July 2021.

The LLLT program is the first of its kind in the USA and is aimed to help provide affordable legal services to the broader population in the state. LLLTs are licensed by the Washington Supreme Court to advise and assist people going through a divorce, child custody, and other family law matters, the aim had been to expand these practice areas. LLLTs consult with and advise clients, complete and file necessary court documents, assist pro se clients at certain types of hearings, and advise and participate in mediation, arbitration, and settlement conferences.

The Bar Association has requested that anyone who wishes to contact the Supreme Court about the decision should email  supreme@courts.wa.gov.

See the Bar Association’s comments.

See the Supreme Court’s letter announcing the decision (PDF).

See Justice Madsen’s dissenting opinion on the decision (PDF).

 

 

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Legal Services Consumer Panel concerned about information quality

A consumer impact report launched by the Legal Services Consumer Panel in March of this year has highlighted ongoing concerns about indicators of service quality provided by lawyers. The report highlights that 4 years after the publication of a CMA report that examined the difficulty for consumers in gauging the quality of legal services before purchasing, issues still remain.

The report highlights that the scarcity of quality indicators that lawyers and firms are required to publish negates much of the progress that has been made on price transparency. The report calls on regulators to act to build a common framework of quality indicators in order to improve consumer awareness.

Sarah Chambers, the chair of the panel said: “The sector must continue to focus on transparency as a regulatory tool that has the power to empower consumers and enhance effective choice and competition. I am still concerned that very little progress has been made towards establishing quality indicators, considering that we are now in the fourth year since the CMA identified a need.”

Download the full Legal Services Consumer Panel Consumer Impact Report in PDF.

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Notes on the Westminster Legal Policy Forum keynote seminar – 25th February 2020

This ICLR special report has been compiled to give members a flavour of what was discussed during the annual Westminster Legal Policy Forum, held on the 25th February 2020. The theme of the day was ‘regulation, consumer protection and responding to innovation’, with speakers drawn from across regulators, representative bodies, academia and the legal services sector from across England and Wales. Further information about upcoming Westminster Legal Policy forum events, as well as publications from the forum, are available here.

The Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation – key issues to be addressed

Professor Stephen Mayson, Centre for Ethics and Law, University College London and Lead, Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation

The day began with a keynote speech by Professor Stephen Mayson outlining the progress of his hotly anticipated recommendations on legal services regulation. Professor Mayson took the opportunity to address some of the key issues that had arisen during the course of his research. Professor Mayson stressed that his report was written with the consumer as the primary concern, saying that given the scale of unmet legal need across England and Wales, it had become increasingly clear, both that the changes he will propose will be too radical to be achieved within the Legal Services Act 2007 (LSA) and that he increasingly views reform as something that will need to take place sooner rather than later.

Professor Mayson raised four key issues that he has identified under the current regime:

  1.  The vulnerable – Professor Mayson highlighted the vast level of unmet legal need in the country, saying that the law is too complex and too important for the level of access available. Professor Mayson also criticised the “unprincipled” nature dichotomy of high barriers to entry to deliver reserved legal activities, which are treated as essential until a consumer can no longer afford them, at which point the consumer becomes able to self represent.
  2. The dabblers – Professor Mayson also criticised the narrow entry gate to the profession, which allows a wide range of practice. He highlighted the fact that the simultaneous licensing of title and activity allows legal practitioners to hold themselves out as capable of delivering in areas in which they have limited or no competence and experience, leading to a lack of credibility.
  3. Buridan’s ass – Professor Mayson discussed the philosophical concept of Buridan’s ass, in which a donkey placed equidistantly between two piles of food is unable to make a decision as to which one to move towards and starves. He compared this to regulatory reform, suggesting that unless a decision was made on either moving towards risk-based regulation, or some kind of reworking of the existing system then reform would become paralysed by a lack of choice.
  4. The Gordian Knot – Professor Mayson highlighted that his report will raise many questions as to what an independent regulatory system should look like, however, he highlighted that the current system creates the artifice of the approved regulator, which holds an unclear position between being a profession focused representative body and publicly focused regulator. Professor Mayson suggested that the time has come to sever the Gordian knot between the regulatory body and approved regulator.

The full text of Professor Mayson’s speech is available here, with further information about the independent review of legal services available here.

The future of legal services – technology adoption, the changing shape of professional services firms and regulatory development

A lively panel discussion followed the keynotes speech, with panellists providing analysis on what they saw as key issues in the regulation of legal services

Neil Rose, Founder and Editor, Legal Futures – Mr Rose discussed some of the need for reform, pointing out that whilst the current system works well for some, there remain an awful lot of people for whom it doesn’t. Neil pointed out that the attitude in the sector still gravitates towards “we do things this way because this is how it’s always been done”. He raised the idea that the LSA has acted as a catalyst in allowing new businesses to come in and disrupt the sector, pointing out that concerns over compromised standards have not been fulfilled. Neil also pointed towards the new Solicitors qualifying exam suggesting that it could lead to seismic changes in the profession. He also pointed towards further reforms as creating the opportunity for the sector to further grow and develop.

John Gould, Senior Partner, Russell-Cooke; Author, The Law of Legal Services and Member, Advisory Panel, Independent Review of Legal Services – Mr Gould began by asking if there is really a need and an appetite for change. He then went on to describe how the current system has become something of a “lottery winners bungalow”, with many developments and aspirational additions tacked on, with no coherent whole. Mr Gould suggested that this has created a system where compliance officers have become a necessity as a go-between between lawyers and regulators, with the public completely excluded, with no clarity as to how the system works. He suggested that a clearer and more understandable system must be developed with the relationship between activity and title being clearly defined, to create a system that can function for the public, practitioners and regulators.

Duncan Wiggetts, Executive Director, Professional Standards, ICAEW – Mr Wiggets discussed how the distinction between lawyers and non-lawyers has become increasingly blurred. He suggested that for consumers of legal services costs had become a key factor in how purchasing decisions are made, leading to a convergence between accountants, lawyers and other business advisors. Mr Wiggets pointed towards the Brydon and Kingman reviews into audit and financial reporting, suggesting that these could inform the ongoing work of the Mayson review. He suggested that both these reports pointed towards the primacy of public interest and the need for risk-based regulation.

Kirsteen Forisky, Head of Innovations, LEAP Legal Software – Ms Forisky pointed out that changes in the legal environment have fundamentally altered legal service delivery. She pointed out that to remain competitive firms must begin to use technology, particularly cloud-based software, in order to improve their efficiency and information-sharing capabilities. She pointed out that this will enable firms to work in an agile way, meeting client demands in today’s business environment, allowing them to offer an enhanced client experience, without creating added pressures and costs on employees.

Derek Sweeting QC, Vice-Chair, Bar Council – Mr Sweeting discussed the risks present in opening up the profession. He cited current concerns over unregulated legal providers, raising the example of Paul Wright v Troy Lucas & George Rusz, citing the danger of unregulated provision. Mr Sweeting suggested that consumers prefer to rely on named professionals, who they can trust and rely on to provide quality services. Mr Sweeting suggested that the growing number of solicitors entering into the profession combined with increased public legal knowledge would meet the unmet legal need gap in a way that allowed people to place trust in the legal sector.

Chair’s closing remarks

Lord Gold

Based on the discussion throughout the morning Lord Gold took the opportunity to urge the Ministry of Justice to take action on simplifying the regulatory regime, highlighting the fact that unless there is political action, the profession will continue to debate and delay ad infinitum. The Conservative peer raised concerns over regulators ability to respond to technology and other challenges and said: “If you leave it to the brilliant lawyers we have in this country, they will obfuscate and delay and it will never happen … Now is the time for the MoJ to rip this up and decide what exact regulatory regime we need for the future.”

The state of the market – transparency, consumer engagement and reflections on the 2016 Market Study

Chris Jenkins, Economics Director, Competition and Markets Authority – Mr Jenkins gave his thoughts on the progress that had been made since the release of the CMA’s hugely influential 2016 study on the legal services market. He pointed out that in the initial study there had been a pledge to review the progress approximately every three years, and told the event that a review was planned for the second half of 2020. Taking a broad view Mr Jenkins suggested that tackling the issue of public ability to asses price and quality had not been fully addressed and that more work was needed on the issue to improve consumer ability to make purchasing decisions. He called for regulators to push forward on improving standards of transparency, making it easier to compare services and providers. He did point out however that there had been greater progress in implementing changes improving independence and regulatory transparency which had been a positive move, although he suggested that there was still more work needed in improving consumer redress.

The focus on consumers – public confidence, competition and managing ‘unmet legal need’

Simon Davis, President, The Law Society – Mr Davis discussed the findings of the recently published legal needs survey, which was produced by the law society in partnership with the LSB and YouGov. Mr Davis pointed out that the results of the survey suggested that when people did purchase legal services from a solicitor the vast majority were satisfied with the service and outcome. He pointed out that many consumers were unsure if their problem constituted a legal problem and therefore failed to seek advice. He suggested, therefore, that the solution in tackling unmet legal need was improving legal aid provision and increasing public legal education, to help consumers identify when they had a legal issue.

Dr Ashwini Natraj, Senior Economic Consultant, Consumer and Behavioural Economics Team, London Economics – Dr Nataraj outlined the work that London Economics has been doing on the relationship between behavioural economics and public engagement with the legal sector. She discussed some of the ongoing issues that exist in public decision making around legal services, highlighting problems such as the complexity of the market, stress purchasing, information asymmetry, and the infrequency of purchasing. She pointed out that this has led to low awareness of consumer protections, low confidence in the sector, particularly amongst vulnerable groups and difficulty balancing price and quality. She suggested that behavioural economics approaches could be used to improve engagement and understanding of legal regulation, particularly as there was a difficult balance between providing enough information to give consumers clarity, which has to be balanced against overwhelming consumers with a vast weight of information.

Mariette Hughes, Head Ombudsman, Legal Ombudsman – Ms Hughes discussed the role of the Legal Ombudsman in improving public confidence in legal services. She pointed out that as the last resort and last port of call the ombudsman is often the key touchpoint in maintaining public confidence amongst the most vulnerable and most challenging cases. However, she pointed out that there was still a presumption that the ombudsman would be able to provide consistent supply and quality, raising questions over the resources available to the ombudsman. She also pointed out whilst having a single ombudsman for the whole sector helps to improve confidence, there is also the risk that a single ombudsman can not leave some gaps, which must be met by specialised regulators to avoid damaging public confidence.

Rob Houghton, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, really moving and The Law Superstore – Mr Houghton discussed the role of price and quality comparison sites in providing consumers with resources to better understand the legal market. He pointed out that having resources to compare prices allows for greater influence of natural market forces over an opaque marketplace. He suggested that having greater price and quality competition could only stand to benefit consumers, as it would increase the information available whilst also pushing providers to improve the value proposition of their services, effectively creating a new way to sell their services on value and quality, allowing them to compete with larger organisations.

Julia Salasky, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Legl – Ms Salasky discussed the role that technology can play in addressing consumer side challenges. She suggested that as expectations of a certain level of consumer experience increase, failing to meet this expectation reflects increasingly negatively on the profession.  She suggested that technology could provide an incredible opportunity for the industry to improve communication around value and transparency of products, which could go on to inherently improve public confidence in their legal purchases, and therefore public confidence in the law as a whole.

Regulation in the legal services market – structures, roles and independence

Matthew Hill, Chief Executive, Legal Services Board (LSB) – Mr Hill raised concerns over the fact that unmet legal need was still a major problem and that the legal market was not working for a significant proportion of the population and economy. He compared the current regulatory system to a chair with two legs, saying “You can sit on it perfectly comfortably provided a lot of people spend a lot of time holding it steady for you. We do spend a lot of time making independence work by investing time and effort in it.” Suggesting that the current system can be made to work and that further change can be wrung out of it, however, to truly create an impact there must be a wholesale change in legal regulation. He said “The existing system is undoubtedly complex. It’s built around professions and not consumers. For example, reserved legal activities and title-focused regulators make sense to regulators and sectors, but not necessarily to the public.” He suggested that whilst public legal education played a valuable role, it clearly had not significantly shifted public views on the sector and was sometimes used as a way of blaming the public rather than taking responsibility for change. He ultimately suggested that reform would have to come about at some point and should be built around meeting consumer needs first. Mr Hill also questioned whether, given the scale of some regulatory bodies, they were all fully able to deliver public outcomes.

Ewen Macleod, Director of Strategy and Policy, Bar Standards Board  (BSB) –  Mr Macleod agreed that change was needed to improve public confidence. He suggested that the greatest risk to consumers came about during the initial advice to consumers. He, therefore, suggested that the answer did not lie in creating further barriers, and instead lay in working to improve reputational issues. He said that through broadening the scope of after the event regulation, increasing access to the Legal Ombudsman and improving public information over how to access legal services, public confidence could be improved. He suggested that the board supported a greater focus on risk-based approaches, but that a title was necessary to provide clarity during purchase, suggesting that there is an issue over how risk-based approaches can map onto the public consciousness of existing titles and recognition. Mr Macleod also suggested that the BSB needs to be ready to respond to new developments in legal technology, in order to meet public expectation on the issue.

Chris Handford, Director of Regulatory Policy, Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Mr Handford explained that given the fact that as of yet there have not been changes announced in the regulatory regime, therefore the SRA would continue to reform within the boundaries of the existing framework, stressing that the SRA was limited by decisions made at a government level and within the LSB, and within the confines of the LSA. He put forward several reforms that had been put implemented by the SRA, including rewriting solicitors standards to become more principles focused; work to increase trust and consistency, including exploring better quality indicators and ongoing competence; he talked about legal technology suggesting that there is significant potential in the area to improve access to justice, however, also flagging that the SRA must be alive to the potential risks technology could create. Mr Handford suggested that the direction of travel in the profession was towards increasingly blurred boundaries, with a lot of change coming, pointing out that regulators must be ready to embrace and act on this change in order to manage it and effectively fulfil their function.

Stuart Dalton, Director of Policy and Enforcement, CILEx Regulation (CRL) – Mr Dalton began by advocating strongly for the reforms being suggested by Stephen Mayson, suggesting that CRL could be ready to address much of the regulatory void that the report had identified, particularly around tech, helping to address much of the identified need, suggesting that under its current position CRL is already well equipped to deliver regulation around specific activities, given its current structure in regulation across the legal sector. Mr Dalton also took the opportunity to highlight CRL and CILEx’s strong commitment to regulatory independence. Emphasising that CRL has committed to achieving the highest possible degree of independence from CILEx as is possible under current statutory limits. He suggested that in the future regulatory independence, with a public focus would become the norm in legal regulation and that CRL would be leading the way towards this change.

Chair’s closing remarks

Rt Hon the Lord Falconer of Thoroton – Lord Falconer, the architect of the LSA gave his thoughts on the proceedings saying it was “apparent that the legal services market is not servicing the whole market properly and that market forces will not solve that problem”. He said that clearly the solutions had to come from a combination of regulators and public funding, pointing out that government buy-in is necessary to implement and initiate genuine change. The peer gave a nod to discussions about the complexity of the regime, as well as the growing role of technology, saying: “I am sure that there are things that could be done to improve the structure, but I believe that the structure is sufficiently flexible for the regulatory issues to be met. I am not that persuaded that a fundamental shift in the legislative structure is a good idea… but I do think one of the big problems is the failure of the state to provide sufficient legal aid and other forms of funding for advice that the market would not otherwise provide.”

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LSB announces new consumer panel appointment in push for increased public focus

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has announced the appointment of former barrister and current Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Epsom and Ewell, Lisa Davis to the newly formed Legal Services Consumer Panel. The role of the panel is to try to better gauge public engagement with the legal services sector.

The appointment comes on the back of the LSB’s plans to establish a public panel that can be listened to and drawn on for feedback and insight. The standing panel would also be accessed by the Consumer Panel, as well as the regulatory bodies, to ensure the views of the public inform debate and help shape decisions.

Chair of the LSB, Dr Helen Phillips said: “I am pleased to congratulate Lisa on her appointment to the Consumer Panel. Her diverse experience of national consumer groups, the bar and regulation and will add great value to the important work of the Panel as we increase our focus on public engagement. It is vital that legal services are accessible to everyone in society and we are engaging the Panel and others to develop a new strategy for the sector. As part of this we want to hear the views of people who require legal services and ensure the needs of the public are at the heart of service design.”

Lisa Davis said: “I am thrilled to be joining the Legal Services Consumer Panel and representing the interests of the many consumers of legal services. I particularly look forward to helping the panel to deliver its key priority aim of prioritising the needs of vulnerable consumers, an area I’ve been focusing on in my role within the voluntary sector.”

Read the full announcement here.

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SRA launches consultation on compensation fund changes

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has launched a consultation on “reforms to the compensation fund arrangements”. The consultation builds on the conclusions of the past consultation on compensation, covered here in 2018. Changes have been made based on the feedback given, including introducing a maximum cap on related claims and dropping proposals for the introduction of a hardship test.

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive said: “We want to strike the right balance between protecting clients’ money and making sure that the Fund remains sustainable for the future. We think the proposals we are consulting on find that balance, but we want to hear the views of all those involved.”

Proposals include:

  • Focusing eligibility criteria on people that need most protection and removing the current hardship tests
  • Only allowing applications from people that have been provided or are a recipient of a legal service from the solicitor involved
  • Reducing the single claim limit to £500,000, and being clearer about how to apply this limit
  • Capping the total amount payable for a group of related claims
  • No longer allowing claims where an insurance policy has been voided or has already paid out money

The full details of the SRA’s conclusions from the past consultation are available here.

Details of the current consultation, including submission instructions, the proposed rules and further evidence are available here.

Consultation response submission deadline: 21 April 2020. 

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Reasonable adjustments in the provision of legal services: a report for the Solicitors Regulation Authority

The Competition and Markets Authority reported in 2016 that one of the major barriers to accessing and understanding legal services was a general lack of accessibility, particularly in how information is presented and shared.  Charities such as Citizens Advice and Age UK have suggested that this is of particular concern regarding people who, due to mental or physical disabilities, might face heightened challenges.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) commissioned YouGov to undertake research with disabled people in England and Wales. The aim of this research is to explore the reasonable adjustments that solicitors and law firms can make for legal services and information provision to be more accessible for disabled people.

Download the report

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Law School as a Consumer Product: Beat ’em or Join ’em?

Abstract:

With rising costs, pressure on performance metrics and competitive high-profile rankings, law schools are more than ever before being judged on a consumer satisfaction basis by both students and the public. While this perception has been growing over the past two decades, it has reached a crisis point in legal education. When students have their choice of educational institutions, they may act like consumers, and choose to spend their money based on metrics that satisfy them as buyers. This consumer mindset not only impacts admissions, but also can play out in the retention of students. The loss of students transferring out can take a serious toll on a law school, including potential detriments in bar passage, productive classrooms, the loss of future high performing alumni, and the cost of replacing the tuition generation. Schools are thus pressured to address the consumer issue.

Many of the conflicts that arise as between students as consumers, and their institutions, are not necessarily based in the substance of rules. Instead, much of the complaints can easily stem from the institution’s transparency and communication about various aspects of the educational experience, from in the classroom, to a student’s prospects on the job market. As such, institutions should be considering the student perspective in formulating how they present their program of education, and the various aspects within it.

While others have asked the question outright whether college students are consumers, this article does not debate whether law students treat their institutions with a consumer mindset. It presumes they do and seeks to solve the problem for institutions. Part II of this article summarizes how this mindset arose in education and specifically how it arose in legal education, and examines previous conflicts between students and institutions as a result. Part III examines different areas of law school operations where traditional academic mindset and student consumer mindset may clash, and offers solutions and strategies as to where and how the consumer pressure should be embraced to make institutional change, and where it should be resisted to ensure the consumer pressure does not result in changes that are not in students’ best long-term interests. Part IV offers some conclusions on the approach.

Citation:

Vollweiler, Debra Moss, Law School as a Consumer Product: Beat ’em or Join ’em? (July 10, 2019). Available at SSRN.

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UK Competition and Markets Authority to research Scottish legal services market

The Competition and Markets Authority has issued the following press release regarding its impending research into certain aspects of the Scottish legal services market to support the Scottish Government’s response to the Roberton Review.


The following release was published 17 June 2019.

This work has been prompted by the Roberton Review, an Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation in Scotland, and will provide evidence to assist the Scottish Government in determining how to take forward the recommendations made by that report. Led by Esther Roberton, that Review made a number of recommendations, including that there should be a single independent body to regulate the legal profession, set standards and handle complaints.

Building on work already done as part of the Competition and Market Authority’s (CMA) market study into the supply of legal services in England and Wales, this work will examine whether there is evidence of a lack of competition among legal services providers in Scotland, as was the case in England and Wales.

The research will also focus on:

  • the benefits of independent regulation of legal services in Scotland and whether the current institutional arrangement – where the bodies regulating the professions are also those representing and lobbying for them – dampens competition
  • the impact of the current legal services regulatory framework in Scotland on competition, particularly on innovation and the entry of new business models to the market

It is the CMA’s first Scotland-specific project since the expansion of its Edinburgh office last year to help the organisation better identify and resolve issues that harm Scottish consumers.

The CMA has today also published a document setting out its views on the Roberton Review’s recommendations. The CMA welcomes the review, which has sparked a debate about how to ensure the regulation of Scottish legal service providers delivers value for money and choice for consumers, as well as benefitting businesses and the economy.

The CMA intends to publish its findings in early 2020. More information can be found through the CMA here.

Notes to editors

  1. The Independent Review of the Regulation of Legal Services, led by Esther Roberton, was invited by the Scottish Government to review the regulation of legal services in Scotland. It reported in October 2018
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SRA launches legal access challenge

Legal Access Challenge launched to encourage innovation

  • Six in 10 don’t think the legal system in England and Wales is set up for ordinary people
  • Many who experience a legal problem don’t take professional advice, citing cost and trust as key barriers
  • Eight in 10 say it needs to be easier for people to access legal guidance and advice
  • We are partnering with Nesta Challenges to launch a prize to make legal support more accessible and affordable through new technology

New research from Nesta Challenges reveals six in ten (58%) people in England and Wales think the legal system is not set up for ordinary people, with the vast majority wanting it to be easier for people to access legal support.

The research was conducted to mark the launch of the Legal Access Challenge – a new prize we are running in partnership with Nesta Challenges – which aims to help more people access legal services through new technology.

The survey also found one in seven (15%) people in England and Wales have experienced a legal issue in the last 10 years; although with only half (51%) of all respondents confident they can identify whether a problem is a legal matter, this is likely to be far higher. We know from existing data that very few people seek professional advice from a solicitor or barrister when they have a problem1, and the research showed people are instead turning to friends and family (20%) or Google (16%) for legal advice.

When asked about barriers to accessing legal advice, seven in ten (68%) say the high cost, followed by the uncertainty of the cost (56%) and knowing who to trust (37%). The vast majority (79%) believe it needs to be easier for people to access legal guidance and advice for themselves.

There is a widespread belief that technology could be the solution to this, with six in 10 (59%) saying they think technology could lead to better services to help people resolve their legal problems. People believe that the biggest benefits to using a digital service for legal advice would be having a fixed price upfront for legal fees (38%), being able to understand their rights (26%) and having access to cheaper legal advice and information (23%).

Part of our wider programme to drive innovation in the sector, the Legal Access Challenge will offer £250,000 in grants to help innovators develop new technology solutions to help make legal advice more affordable and accessible for the majority.

Chris Gorst, Head of Better Markets, Nesta Challenges, said: “For too many people, legal support and advice seems out of reach and reserved for those with the time and money to navigate a complex legal system.

“Technology is not a panacea, but in many areas of our lives it has transformed the choice, convenience and quality available to us and this could be true in legal services too. The UK is a world leader in both technology and legal services, and there is a huge economic and social opportunity in bringing these together.

“We are launching the Legal Access Challenge to help demonstrate what technology can do and to bring these new solutions to market. We want to see digital solutions that directly support individuals and small businesses to access legal services conveniently and affordably, and which can help close the ‘legal gap’ we currently face.”

Nesta Challenges is part of Nesta, the innovation charity, and offers financial prizes to stimulate innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges society faces. The team works with regulators, policymakers and others to help make markets more competitive and open, advising on how regulatory reforms and targeted public investment programmes can work together to achieve greater impact.

Anna Bradley, Chair of the SRA Board, said: “Whether they are dealing with a personal legal matter , or running a business, people need to be able to get legal support when it really matters.

“Having access to professional advice is important at those life changing moments. And for small businesses, it can make the difference between success and failure.

“There are real barriers for people looking for help and the innovative use of technology is one way of tackling those barriers.

“We want our regulation to support new ideas. The Legal Access Challenge can help to drive the development of new approaches which will deliver tangible benefits to the public, opening up access to legal services for as many people as possible.”

The Legal Access Challenge is open to entrants until 11 August 2019. More information can be found at www.legalaccesschallenge.org

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