ABS’s: THE ENEMY WITHIN AND THE CURIOUS INCIDENT
As The Enemy Within seek further powers to destroy the legal system of England and Wales and thus to destroy society itself, it is worth considering the curious incident of the Ministry of Justice’s survey of the impact of Alternative Business Structures and Legal Services Reform generally.
The curious incident is that there has been no such survey.
In March 2010 the Ministry of Justice published a research paper entitled:
Its findings are interesting and, arguably, surprising. It is required reading for every lawyer in the land.
It shows a satisfaction rating rarely matched by any other group of professionals or workers, and proves what we all knew all along, that the Legal Services Act and Alternative Business Structures address a non-existent problem.
As the name suggests, the idea of a baseline survey is that you see what the position is before any given reforms and you then conduct a further survey to assess the impact of those reforms. This is borne out by the title of that March 2010 research paper as set out above.
That survey showed a satisfaction rating rarely matched by any other group of professionals or workers, and proves what we all knew all along, that the Legal Services Act and Alternative Business Structures sought to address a non-existent problem.
Nevertheless, it would still be very interesting to see what the public think of Legal Services Reform generally, such as the virtual abolition of legal aid, the enormous increase in court fees – over 600% in many instances, as well as Alternative Business Structures and bodies such as Quindell, Co-Op Legal Services, Eddie Stobart, Saga Law and various organizations which have already gone bust and/or pulled out of legal services.
Obviously the reason that the Ministry of Justice, not known for being a friend of the truth, has failed to commission a follow up survey, could not possibly be that it is virtually impossible to improve on the public’s rating of solicitors as shown by the baseline survey, could it?
Here are the key points from that survey:-
- 34% of people in England and Wales aged over 16 had used legal services in the previous three years;
- 91% felt that they had received a good service (84% agreeing a lot and 7% agreeing a little);
- 92% were satisfied with the outcome;
- 92% felt that the provider acted in their best interests;
- 13% felt that they were not given good value for money;
- 2% complained.
Services used and with the percentage using them were:
|Use of legal services for personal matters in the last three years|
|Used in the last three years
|The most recent matter
|Accident or injury claims||11||9|
|Housing, landlord or tenant problems||4||3|
|Any offences or criminal charges||3||2|
|Problems with consumer services or goods||1||1|
|Advice and appeals about benefits or tax credits||1||1|
|Debt or hire purchase problems||1||1|
Authorised providers, that is lawyers, were used in 95% of cases.
81% of users said that the main person handling their matter was a solicitor or trainee solicitor.
|Recommendation by family or friends||29%|
|Information search (eg internet)||5%|
Source by most recent matter type
|Conveyancing||Will writing||Probate||Family matters||Accident or injury||Other personal matter||Total
|Recommendation by family or friends||31||22||24||41||27||29||29|
|User or family member had used provider before||22||31||51||8||4||19||23|
|Referral by another organisation||29||11||5||15||49||23||23|
|Saw local offices||5||13||9||16||4||5||8|
|Responded to advertising or contact||2||14||1||4||8||6||5|
|Searched for information||3||3||3||13||6||10||5|
|Knew someone who worked there||6||2||2||1||2||2||3|
Of the 34% who had used legal services in the previous three years;
- 77% had during that period used legal services for at least one matter;
- 31% had during that period used legal services for two or three other matters;
- 25% had during that period used legal services for four or more other matters;
- 4% had during that period used legal services for 10 or more other matters.
How legal services were paid for
|With own (or family’s or friend’s) money||78|
|Through legal aid||6|
|A free service (excluding no win, no fee arrangements)||5|
|Through a no win, no fee arrangement (conditional/contingency fee)||4|
|By trade union||1|
|In another way||3|
Some methods of payment were associated with particular types of matter. For example for accident and injury matters 42% were paid for through insurance and 39% through conditional or contingency fees. In family matters 31% were paid for by legal aid.
How legal services were paid for by most recent type
|Accident or injury
|Other personal matter
|With own (or family’s or friend’s) money||99||93||97||67||6||49||78|
|Through legal aid||1||–||–||31||6||14||6|
|A free service (excluding no win, no fee arrangements)||1||4||3||8||6||17||5|
|Through a no win, no fee arrangement (conditional/ contingency fee)||*||–||–||–||39||1||4|
|By trade union||–||2||–||–||6||2||1|
|In another way||1||2||–||2||4||10||3|
Fees quoted by most recent matter or type
|Accident or injury
|Other personal matter
|No fee quoted||4||9||18||5||48||14||10|
|Told would not have to pay||–||1||–||–||28||8||3|
Types of legal service providers used
|– Licensed conveyancers||*|
|Citizens Advice Bureau||1|
|Community legal advice centre||1|
|Company dealing with accident and injury claims||*|
How users first heard about main provider
|Recommendation by family or friends||29|
|User or family member had used provider before||23|
|Referral by another organisation||23|
|Saw local offices||8|
|Responded to advertising or contact||5|
|Searched for information||5|
|Knew someone who worked there||3|
The figure of 23% for referrals breaks down as follow, with the figures below being the percentage of the whole range of sources, not the percentage of referral work.
|By another legal organization||4%|
|Insurance company/trade union||5%|
|Others (claims management companies, estate agents, financial advisers etc)||14%|
|79%||felt that they had a lot or a fair amount of choice of provider;
|93%||felt that it was very or fairly easy to choose a provider;
|92%||were given the name of a particular person who would handle their matter.|
Basis of charging
|No fee quoted||10|
|Told would not have to pay||3|
|94%||said that they were able to deal with their provider whey they needed to;|
|85%||communicated by telephone;|
|59%||visited the provider’s office;|
|46%||communicated by post;|
|28%||communicated by email|
When users were asked to specify their main method of communication 59% said the telephone and 22% said personal visits.
When asked their preferred method of communication
51% said telephone
41% said personal visits
22% said email
20% said post
The report states:
“Personal contact was regarded as essential for progressing matters”
“Most people had chosen providers that were conveniently situation”.
Other service standards
|96%||agreed that the lawyer explained things in a way that the client could understand;
|95%||agreed that the lawyer acted in a professional manner;|
|94%||knew what was going on in the matter|
|94%||agreed that the lawyer was approachable|
|89%||agreed that the lawyer responded to calls and letters promptly;|
|86%||said that they would be likely to recommend the provider and 63% said that they were very likely to do so.|
Problems and complaints
10% said that there was a problem or issue with their legal service that they were unhappy about.
The rate of problems for family matters was 22% and for conveyancing 9% and for will writing 5%.
The following table shows the issues that the 10% had were
|Delays/the amount of time the matter took||36|
|Not kept up to date/informed||27|
|Costs or bill too high||23|
|Standards/quality of service provided||21|
|Treatment by provider’s staff||11|