Commenting on Legal Services Board (LSB) research into unregulated providers of legal services, Law Society chief executive Catherine Dixon said:
'Many legal services can be provided by regulated and unregulated providers. If legal services are purchased from a solicitor, buyers can rest assured that the service is fully regulated, that insurance is in place, and that in the event that something goes wrong they have the right to redress.
'Unfortunately, however, it is not always clear to consumers whether they are buying from a regulated provider. As the LSB research shows, there are a number of unregulated providers supplying the same legal services as solicitors and many buyers simply will not know that they won't get the same level of protection from an unregulated provider if something goes wrong.
'This can be exacerbated if the unregulated provider calls themselves a lawyer, which is not a protected title. We think that you should only be able to call yourself a lawyer if you are a qualified legal practitioner. We are concerned that many consumers may not know the difference, which can leave them exposed.
'If it is the case that consumers need regulatory protection, such protection should be consistent across the market. If not, this can lead to unfair competition and a lack of regulatory protection for some buyers who genuinely believe they will have rights of redress and are insured in case something goes wrong.
'The expertise of solicitors comes from rigorous training. They work to professional standards, are regulated, have insurance, and their clients have access to redress if services do not meet the required high standard.
'There are obvious benefits in improved, consistent price and service transparency in advertising across all suppliers of legal services, whether regulated or unregulated. Solicitors are also bound by a code of conduct which ensures they are transparent about pricing with a client before beginning work.
'Sometimes, fixed pricing for less complex issues may be the best pricing solution. For many of the more complex services that solicitors provide, such as family services, clients have more complex needs and so the price of the service they receive will be determined by their individual circumstances and the type of advice they require.
'The profession has a great track record of innovation and creativity in a changing market. Solicitors embrace new technology to meet the needs of clients, reduce costs and maintain their competitive edge. This ability to adapt ensures the vibrancy and long term success of the legal sector in the UK.'
Notes to editors
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