Prices of Individual Consumer Legal Services 2017: LSB research

The Legal Services Board (England and Wales) has published research which monitors the average prices that consumers pay for a number of common legal services.  Understanding changes in prices over time helps determine whether there have been any improvements in the extent of competition between providers, and affordability and access to justice for consumers. It provides unique insight for those with an interest in these areas within the legal services market.

For the first time this research enabled an analysis of changes over time of the average prices that consumers pay for 15 services covering conveyancing, divorce, wills, lasting power of attorney, probate, and estate administration. This builds on the survey published in 2016.

Findings include:

  • There is a continued significant variation in the price that consumers pay for the same service, so it pays to shop around.
  • Fixed fees continue to be cheaper than other forms of charging in all three market segments
  • There has been no change in the proportion of firms displaying prices on their website between 2015 and 2017 (18%), pointing to a continued lack of information to enable consumers to easily shop around.
  • Prices have changed in six of the 15 scenarios – rising in three divorce scenarios, and falling in two conveyancing scenarios, and in the Lasting Power of Attorney scenario.

This new information will feed into the LSB’s ongoing market evaluation, which seeks to establish the impact of reforms on the legal sector market. Moreover, the LSB believe the findings of this second wave of the research reinforce the Competition and Markets Authority’s conclusions that competition in the sector is not working well and should assist regulators in shaping plans to improve transparency in the market.

Read the research in full

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Report from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being

A coalition of groups, including the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, have released a comprehensive report, The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change, aimed at addressing the problem of substance use and mental health disorders of lawyers.

The report, by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, includes several dozen recommendations and represents the most ambitious roadmap yet related to the well-being of lawyers. It is intended to spark a broader conversation in the legal profession regarding reasons behind substance use disorders as well as the effects of impairment to guide policy changes and to lead to a cultural shift within the profession.

Last week, the Conference of Chief Justices, which participated in the development of the report, gave the recommendations its endorsement. Other groups involved in the drafting of the task force report were the National Organization of Bar Counsel, the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers and the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

This report’s recommendations focus on five central themes:

  • Identifying stakeholders and the role each can play in reducing the level of toxicity in the legal profession.
  • Eliminating the stigma associated with help-seeking behaviors.
  • Emphasizing that well-being is an indispensable part of a lawyer’s duty of competence.
  • Educating lawyers, judges and law students on lawyer well-being issues.
  • Taking small, incremental steps to change how law is practiced and how lawyers are regulated to instill greater well-being in the profession.

Link to the full report

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UK study probes access, quality and costs in family law

Most solicitors practising family law in England and Wales appear to be providing services in line with expected standards, according to recently published research.

The study, carried out by Ecorys UK, found fairly strong agreement among consumers that their solicitor met the core competencies, particularly those relating to their professional manner. Just over one-half (58 percent) of consumers rated the overall quality of the service they received as either good or excellent.

Commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the research involved an online survey of 115 firms and a telephone survey of 117 consumers, including people defined as vulnerable due to their situation or displaying personal vulnerability characteristics.  The research team also conducted in-depth interviews with 16 firms and 23 consumers.

Most consumers (86 percent) reported that finding a solicitor was easy, and 52 percent said they based their decision on personal recommendations.

But almost half (47 percent) of consumers felt that their solicitor’s costs were more than expected. Of this group, two thirds (26 respondents) said that their solicitor had not explained why the cost was higher.

Experiences of consumers who may be vulnerable in family law: A research report for the Solicitors Regulation Authority

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Research on client care letters

Research by Optimisa commissioned by the legal regulators in England and Wales finds that client care letters – letters sent to clients to explain the lawyer-client relationship when the lawyer is first instructed – are not sufficiently effective. The research identifies principles to help legal services providers better communicate with their clients. These principles are well established in the field of plain English communication, including things like ‘Show a clear purpose’ and ‘Make it easy to read’.

News release on Bar Standards Board website

Research on Client Care Letters report on Bar Standards Board website

Research on Client Care Letters report (PDF)

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The legal needs of small businesses 2015 survey

Large scale quantitative survey of the experiences of 10,528 small businesses, showing the origin of legal problems that they face and their strategies for dealing with these problems, including where they seek advice and their experiences of doing so.

Read the report on the LSB website

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Innovations in the provision of legal services in the United States

In a report for the RAND Corporation, Neil Rickman and James M. Anderson present a framework for examining legal sector innovation in the United States. This framework is to aid policymakers in understanding the likely effects of innovations and the role of regulation in promoting or deterring innovation.

RAND Corporation. “Innovations in the Provision of Legal Services in the United States.” 2011. Accessed 26 October 2015.

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Costs of regulation in England and Wales

The Legal Services Board found little evidence on the costs of legal sector regulation, so in late 2014 it surveyed the regulated community and in 2015 it commissioned a study of the incremental costs of regulation – those incurred to comply with legal regulation.

 

Categories of regulatory cost in the studies include:

  • Requirements to have separate client accounts
  • Information requests from the regulator (including applying for practising certificates).
  • Consumer information disclosure
  • Ongoing supervision activity by the regulator
  • File retention
  • Keeping up to date with changes to regulations
  • Professional development training course fees
  • Professional indemnity insurance

Legal Services Board. “The regulated communities’ views on the cost of regulation”. March 2015.

Legal Services Board. “In-depth investigation into the costs of regulation in the market for legal services.” 15 September 2015. Available from the LSB website, accessed 19 October 2015.

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Innovation in legal services

The Solicitors Regulation Authority surveyed 1,500 organisations and concluded:

  • Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) have succeeded in promoting innovation and diversity; ABS Solicitors are 13-15 per cent more likely to introduce new legal services.
  • Solicitors are, on average, more innovative than other regulated legal services organisations in terms of both managerial and organisational changes.
  • 80 per cent of legal services organisations feel they have a leadership and culture which supports the development of new ideas.
  • The major effect of innovation in legal services has been to extend service range, improve quality and attract new clients.
  • Regulatory and legislative changes emerge as both a barrier to and driver of innovation. Regulatory and legislative issues were seen as being a significant impediment to innovation by only one fifth and one quarter of respondents respectively.

Solicitors Regulation Authority. “Innovation in legal services.” July 2015.

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