Quality indicators in the legal services market

Overview

On 23 February, the Legal Services Board (LSB) published a discussion paper opening a debate on how to improve transparency of quality in the legal services market.

The LSB is seeking views on its initial thinking in this area, with the deadline for responses on 22 April 2021.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) 2020 progress review concluded that while some positive progress has been made on increasing transparency around prices, less was done in the area of service quality.

The CMA recommended that the LSB and other frontline regulators continue work building on existing transparency reforms to enhance consumer engagement and make more progress on transparency around quality indicators.

Following the CMA’s recommendations, the LSB is keen to accelerate its work on consumer engagement and identify practical solutions to improve transparency of information on service quality for consumers.

Alongside the paper, the LSB also published quality indicators research conducted with the LSB’s Public Panel.

The research was commissioned to understand what consumers look for in terms of quality, the information they currently use to gauge quality, and their response to initiatives to improve access to information on quality.

The proposals

The LSB’s discussion paper outlines a proposed framework for improving transparency of quality that considers the following aspects:

How to define quality

  • Technical quality – quality of advice, comprehensiveness, accuracy
  • Service quality – quality of client care, communication
  • Outcome – desired outcome of casework

What type of information to collect

  • Objective data – for example, disciplinary records/sanctions, Legal Ombudsman decisions, error rates recorded by public bodies
  • Consumer feedback – narrative reviews, scoring systems
  • General information about providers – for example, age of firm, size of firm

What information channels to use

  • Legal services providers’ websites
  • Digital comparison tools
  • Single digital register

What options for improving consumer engagement

  • Requirements on legal services providers to signpost consumers to digital comparison tools (DCTs)
  • Requirements on legal services providers to embed a rating from a DCT on their website or operate a standardised customer feedback mechanism
  • Requirements on legal services providers to publish certain information in a specific format on their websites, such as complaints data or error rates
  • Supporting consumers to know what to look for when choosing providers
  • Supporting consumers and legal services providers to use DCTs safely

LSB consultation questions

The LSB is seeking views on potential policy interventions that could help consumers to more easily compare providers on price, quality and other things that matter to them.

The discussion paper considers two possible approaches:

  1. regulators support the emergence of a DCTs market, which would sit alongside a regulator-led single digital register. This support could include specific measures such as signposting requirements
  2. regulators use a commissioning model to establish a platform operating a standardised customer feedback system. This could form part of a single digital register, or sit alongside it, and would co-exist with commercial DCTs

The LSB’s questions

Question 1: We are proposing to think about quality in terms of these dimensions: technical quality, customer service and outcomes. What do you think about these elements and are there others we should consider?

Question 2: We are proposing to encourage use of these types of information: objective data, consumer feedback and general information about providers. What do you think about these types of information and are there others we should consider?

Question 3: Which groups of consumers and/or types of provider should action in this area focus on?

Question 4: Should there be a base level of transparency on quality across the market and enhanced transparency in priority service areas? What should a base level of transparency on quality consist of?

Question 5: How useful could consumer feedback, objective data and general information about providers be in informing consumer choice? What are the benefits and drawbacks of these types of information?

Question 6: What role, if any, should success rates and complaints data have in informing consumer choice? Is there other quantitative data that would be helpful to inform consumer choice?

Question 7: Which of these different channels – law firms’ websites, DCTs, a single digital register – do you think could be most effective in providing access to information on quality? Are there other channels we should consider?

Question 8: Do you have evidence on current usage of DCTs not mentioned in the paper? How could we best encourage engagement by consumers and law firms with DCTs? What are your views on the specific potential solutions, such as requiring law firms to signpost to DCTs, embed ratings, or prompt consumers to leave a review?

Question 9: What, if any, steps should regulatory bodies take to help consumers and legal services providers engage with DCTs safely?

Question 10: What range of quality information, if any, would it be appropriate to hold on a single digital register?

Question 11: What are your views on the relative merits of a market-led approach compared with standardised regulator-led approach?

Question 12: Do you have any further comments on our analysis and approach to determining suitable quality indicators?

Next steps

Responses to the discussion paper will inform the LSB’s draft policy statement on consumer engagement, which will set expectations of the legal services regulators in relation to market transparency.

The LSB plans to consult on the statement in summer 2021.

See the discussion paper on the LSB website

Get involved

We will be responding to the discussion paper on behalf of our members.

We’re keen to hear your views on issues discussed in the paper and potential interventions considered by the LSB.

Send your feedback to regulation@lawsociety.org.uk by Friday 2 April.