LSB policy statement empowers consumers to engage with legal services
The Legal Services Board’s (LSB) policy statement on empowering consumers sets expectations for legal services provider regulators to offer useful information to consumers about the cost and quality of their services, but solicitors’ leaders warned these throw up real challenges as one legal case is rarely directly comparable to another.
“The profession is committed to ensuring clients have all the information they need before engaging a solicitor,” said Law Society of England and Wales president I. Stephanie Boyce.
“In principle, setting expectations around a base level of transparency on price, quality and service could help to deliver more information for clients.
“However, it’s hard to imagine that a fully standardised comparison model will work in the legal sector, especially when it comes to measuring quality of legal services, customer service and work outcome.
“That is why giving regulators flexibility in developing new measures is welcome to take account of diverse areas of practices.
“We are also pleased that the LSB recognised the Law Society’s call for the need to test new proposals before implementation. The LSB also added a new principle that encourages regulators to test proposed transparency measures to ensure they’re best suited to consumers’ needs.
“It is disappointing the LSB said it doesn’t expect the principles will generally have a negative impact on groups with protected characteristics.
“It is nonetheless encouraging the LSB recognises concerns raised by the Law Society on the potential disproportionate effect the policy statement could have on sole practitioners and smaller firms, where practitioners with protected characteristics often operate.
“The LSB expects frontline regulators to consider implications for diversity and inclusion before implementing new measures.”
The LSB also highlighted how regulators should consider how to facilitate the use of digital comparison tools (DCTs), such as customer feedback and comparison sites.
I. Stephanie Boyce added: “Given concerns about DCTs in other markets, before promoting these tools with clients, regulators should ensure the DCTs market operates fairly and consumers, law firms and practitioners have trust and confidence to engage with these tools.
“Solicitors comply with rigorous transparency rules and the LSB places more expectations on regulated professions, but DCTs operating in the legal market are not subject to similar measures or regulatory oversight from the LSB or other frontline line regulators.
“This is a real loophole that needs addressing in order to ensure the information is not distorted and for consumers and solicitors to build trust in these tools.
“We look forward to continuing our engagement with the LSB and the Solicitors Regulation Authority to explore the issues around consumer empowerment and testing potential scenarios to understand the benefit for clients and the impact on the market, especially on small firms and sole practitioners.”
Notes to editors
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