Legal market research – Perceptions and needs of consumers and small businesses

Posted on: April 24, 2016

I regularly facilitate a public training session for CLT on “Client care, service excellence and retention” http://www.clt.co.uk/course/Client-Care-Service-Excellence-and-Retention/. During the workshop we spend time considering various legal market research reports.

I have blogged a lot about commercial client research and the needs of general counsel in the past (see the related links below). This blog supplements the material (see, for example, http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/legal-sector-research-highlights-from-the-age-of-the-client-by-lexisnexis/) on the perceptions and needs of consumers and small businesses.

Latent consumer demand – Legal Services Board/bdrc (2012)

This research shows that:

  • Half of all adults believed that they had experienced at least one legal need in the last three years
  • Amongst 4,017 respondents where there were 9,800 legal needs
    • 44% took some form of professional advice
    • 12% sought advice from friends/family
    • 27% handled it without help
    • 14% did nothing
  • Those experiencing a divorce were most likely to seek professional advice (56%)
  • Those experiencing a consumer problem were most likely to deal with it without help (51%)
  • Reasons why they didn’t seek legal advice:
    • 36% didn’t think anything could be done
    • 16% were waiting for problem to resolve itself
  • The type of advice sought:
    • 64% face to face (at least for the first meeting)

This would indicate that there is significant opportunity in latent demand for consumer legal services. Law firms need to do more to communicate about common issues and the range of potential options available and the need for consumers to take action.

The report can be seen here: https://research.legalservicesboard.org.uk/wp-content/media/2012-Individual-consumers-legal-needs-report.pdf

Unbundling and control – Legal Service Consumer Panel (2015)

This research shows that:

  • Legal service providers are described as “very expensive” – Unbundling meant they could access legal advice when otherwise they would have been unable to do so
  • A further benefit of unbundling was the additional direct control that they felt by having a role in their own case work
  • A number reported that there were able to speed up the process by taking control of certain tasks
  • Some felt that solicitors had large workloads and would often struggle to prioritise their cases
  • Using a legal service provider was felt by consumers to improve the outcomes compared to attempting to tackle the problem alone

This would indicate that law firms need to be more flexible, change perceptions about cost and communicate a range of options around which elements of the service they can provide and where clients can help themselves. Communications showing the value of legal services (how much can be gained or saved in relation to the cost of the service) need to be improved.

The report can be seen here: http://www.legalservicesconsumerpanel.org.uk/publications/research_and_reports/documents/Unbundling_2015_000.pdf

Small business value perceptions – Kingston University/Legal Services Board (2015)

This research – an online survey conducted by YouGov of 10,528 individuals in small, private sector businesses and not-for-profit organisations, employing fewer than 50 people – shows:

  • The number of legal problems faced by small firms reduced significantly over the last two years. The most common problems related to trading, employment and taxation.
  • Half of firms reporting a legal issue said it had a negative impact
    • a quarter reported loss of income and
    • a fifth reported health related problems.
    • Total annual losses to small firms due to legal problems was estimated at £9.8bn
  • The majority of firms had little contact with legal advisers
  • Less than one in 10 employed in-house lawyers or had a retainer with an external provider.
  • Over half tried to resolve problems by themselves
  • Accountants were consulted more often than law firms
  • Almost half of the respondents disagreed with the statement that ‘Lawyers provide a cost effective means to resolve legal issues’ and only 13% agreed with the statement

This would indicate that law firms need to communicate more effectively about how they can help small businesses and the relative cost and value of doing so (a reduction in losses). It would also suggest a significant opportunity for law firms (and accountants) serving small businesses.

The report can be seen here https://research.legalservicesboard.org.uk/wp-content/media/PUBLISH-The-legal-needs-of-small-businesses-19-October-2015.pdf

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