How do you choose legal services?

three peopleSarah Chambers, of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, explains why shopping around matters.

The Legal Services Consumer Panel recently published its annual research into consumer behaviour in choosing and using legal services in England and Wales.

Looking at the 2018 results, we know that, over the past two years, the most-used legal services by consumers are:

  • conveyancing (36 per cent)
  • will writing (31 per cent)
  • probate (12 per cent)

An overwhelming majority of consumers use a regulated provider, particularly for will writing (92 per cent) and probate services (87 per cent).  

Choosing a provider

When it comes to choosing a legal services provider, we are disappointed to see that overall only 27 per cent of consumers shop around. This figure has remained stagnant over the past two years.

Shopping around matters, because it signifies that consumers are making informed decisions and are positively influencing competition in the market.  

Our findings are even less positive for users of probate services, only 16 per cent of whom shop around. Almost half go to the provider recommended by a family member, one per cent use a comparison website, and eight per cent search for a probate provider online.

Drivers of consumer decision-making

The key factors that users of probate services consider when they search for a provider are location, closely followed by reputation, specialism and, finally, price.

Although price is in the top four of important factors, it is not high on the shopping list. This may be because consumers choose to pay for the service from the proceeds of an estate. We also know that nearly a third of probate users who do shop around say that no upfront information on prices is available.

It is however interesting to note that nearly half of probate users use fixed-fee arrangements to pay for their services. This shows that consumers are responding positively to predictability in price. The need for predictability reinforces the need for price transparency to facilitate consumer choice, and also, to promote fair competition in the sector. Fair competition requires pricing information to be clear, accessible and easy to understand.

Where do we go next?

Given the need for transparency, we applaud the move by some legal regulators to mandate for price transparency, especially for probate. This will empower consumers to make informed choices between competing providers.

We know that regulators are continuing their work on transparency, and we would like to see the next phase of this work focus on quality indicators, without which price transparency tells only half the story.

Read more: Legal Services Consumer Panel tracker survey 2018

About the author

Sarah Chambers is chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, @LegalServicesCP

See also:

How to choose a probate solicitor