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A study to look at how people access legal services has been announced

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has been looking at how the public accesses legal services in North Wales last month to gauge the opinions of local people on the legal services market. This was the first of a number of SRA consumer visits taking place across England and Wales in 2012 as part of the SRA’s new consumer research project.

The research will look at the different problems consumers might face when using a legal service, and if increased information can help improve outcomes for these consumers. The SRA research team will also be talking to legal services firms, and information providers such as Citizens Advice Bureaux, charities, law centres and trade unions, to understand how consumers get information about legal services, and how this could be improved.

The research will allow the SRA to look in more depth at the barriers that consumers face to achieving the right outcome when they have a legal requirement.

Tim Livesley, SRA Head of Research, said, ‘It’s great to be out on the road talking to legal services consumers across the country. We hope to improve our understanding of the barriers to consumers achieving good outcomes with a legal services provider, and what types of information can help break down some of these barriers.’

Richard Silver, SRA Policy Officer for Consumer Affairs said: ‘We found that many people were familiar with firms with local offices, which indicates the power the high street practice still has in some communities. We also found that in hypothetical scenarios around conveyancing, it was cost that came back time and time again as the main decision criterion when appointing a solicitor.

‘A few mentioned other factors, like speed or communication, but the over-riding factor was definitely looking for the cheapest quote first and foremost. We have seen this before in some of our previous consumer research but perhaps not as starkly as this.’

The SRA plans to publish the research report in early 2013, and hopes to include details of how it will use the findings to drive improved outcomes for consumers. The next phases of the research project are scheduled for Birmingham.

For more information follow these links:

The Solicitors Regulation Authority

The Law Gazette