A recent survey conducted by LawNet, the network of mid-sized and smaller firms, has found that reputation and trust remain the key factors for clients when differentiating between a legal services provider. Despite implementation of the recent SRA Transparency Rules referrals by recommendation, or a firm’s reputation, were more important than price. Some other findings from the survey to note:
- In two-thirds of cases, client loyalty, referrals by recommendation, or a firm’s reputation mattered more than price, which only 4% of clients named as their priority.
- Where cost was a factor, the main thing was the sense that a firm was being transparent over the way it charged.
- The results found that, among clients citing reputation or trust as key factors in choosing solicitors, 30% were existing clients, 19% followed recommendations, and 17% made a selection based on “people or character of the firm”.
- Similarly, studies have found that, while most lawyers think they explain their charges clearly at the outset, fewer clients agree.
The report goes against the common held myth held by a large section of the profession that, with the advent of price transparency, clients would differentiate legal services by this method alone.
On the same day that the report was published, the Legal Ombudsman (LEO) announced that it could start publishing its decisions in full, as well as annual reviews of the most complained-about lawyers and firms, under plans to improve the quality of information it makes available. Although this change is not imminent as LEO is constrained by section 150 of the Legal Services Act 2007 (which only allows it to publish details of decisions that reached the stage of an ombudsman’s decision), any change could feed into the narrative of clients choosing the reputation of a firm when purchasing legal services, and one source that they could refer to is the LEO register of decisions.
A key learning point to take away here is to continue engaging with your clients at all stages of the retainer. Provide sufficient information as part of your client care letter, keep the client updated through the various stages, send out satisfaction surveys when the matter has concluded and respond promptly to all reviews (both positive and negative). Consideration of client complaints should also form part of your annual risk review, and any recurring themes should be addressed.