Law Society Comments on LSD Policy Statement

The Legal Services Board’s (LSB) policy statement on consumer empowerment sets expectations for regulators of legal service providers to offer useful information to consumers about the cost and quality of their services, but leaders of legal services Lawyers have warned that this poses real challenges because one legal case is rarely directly comparable to another.

President of the Law Society of England and Wales, I. Stephanie Boyce mentioned:

“The profession is committed to ensuring that clients have all the information they need before engaging a lawyer. In principle, setting expectations around a basic level of transparency about price, quality, and service could help provide more information to customers.

However, it is hard to imagine that a fully standardized benchmarking model will work in the legal industry, especially when it comes to measuring the quality of legal services, customer service, and job outcomes.

This is why it is welcome to give regulators flexibility in developing new measures to take into account various areas of practice.

Boyce continued:

“We are also pleased that the DSL has acknowledged the Law Society’s call for the need to test new proposals before they are implemented. The LSB also added a new principle that encourages regulators to test proposed transparency measures to ensure they are best suited to consumer needs.

It is disappointing that the LSB has said it does not expect the principles to generally have a negative impact on groups with protected characteristics.

It is nonetheless encouraging that the DSL acknowledges the concerns raised by the Law Society about the potential disproportionate effect the policy statement could have on sole practitioners and small firms, where feature-protected practitioners often practice.

The LSB expects frontline regulators to consider the 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 reviews and comparison sites. Boyce added:

“Given concerns about DCTs in other markets, before promoting these tools to customers, regulators should ensure that the DCT market operates fairly and that consumers, law firms and practitioners have confidence to engage with these tools.

Lawyers comply with stringent transparency rules and the LSB places more expectations on regulated professions, but CSDs operating in the legal market are not subject to similar measures or regulatory oversight by the LSB or other front-line regulators.

This is a real loophole that needs to be closed to ensure that information is not distorted and for consumers and lawyers to build trust in these tools.

We look forward to continuing our engagement with the LSB and the Solicitors Regulation Authority to explore consumer empowerment issues and test potential scenarios to understand customer benefits and market impact, particularly on small businesses and sole practitioners.