Law Society of Alberta continues Lawyer Referral Service review

In 2020 the Law Society of Alberta took the Lawyer Referral Service back in house, and launched a survey to gather the input of key stakeholders regarding the service. 

After many years being run by Calgary Legal Guidance, in March 2020, the Law Society took LRS back in-house. This was partly to better understand how the service meets the needs of the public. Through the first year of in-house operation at the Law Society, more than 17,000 Albertans contacted LRS and were matched with lawyers who participate in the program.

This year, the Law Society of Alberta launched a survey seeking input from clients who had used the service, as well as lawyers who participate in the LRS. This brought back some positive results, suggesting clients who had used the service had often retained the services of the lawyer they were put in contact with. The detailed results of this survey will help the Law Society of Alberta in its goal of improving access to justice and will be followed by a roundtable in November to discuss the operation of the LRS and how it can be improved.

Read the full story here.

Opportunities for law firms to tackle unmet legal need

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.

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.