Poll proves lawyers are well thought of

SCOTTISH solicitors are seen as trustworthy, says Alistair Morris.

Alistair Morris is president of the Law Society of Scotland. Picture: Contributed
Alistair Morris is president of the Law Society of Scotland. Picture: Contributed
Alistair Morris is president of the Law Society of Scotland. Picture: Contributed

Solicitors help people at critical points in their lives and deal with highly confidential and personal matters – whether helping a client buy a new home, arranging a will to ensure that their loved ones don’t lose out after they are gone, or in more difficult circumstances such as family breakdown or appearing in court.

It’s important therefore that people can feel confident and have complete trust in their solicitor and count on him or her for expert advice.

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The Law Society recently commissioned Ipsos Mori to carry out research with members of the public to assess how they felt about solicitors and the work that they do. We’re very pleased that the findings show that Scottish solicitors are highly regarded by the public, with the majority happy to recommend their solicitor to friends and family.

The research found that of those who had used a solicitor in the past five years, more than 90 per cent of respondents said their solicitor was either very trustworthy (70 per cent) or fairly trustworthy (27 per cent), with 87 per cent describing solicitors overall as very or fairly trustworthy.

A total of 89 per cent of those polled agreed that their solicitor was an expert in their area of law. 89 per cent also said their solicitor had provided good customer service, with 82 per cent saying they would recommend their solicitor to other members of their family or friends.

It is very reassuring to know that solicitors are trusted to such a degree, with most people agreeing that solicitors work hard for them and help people deal with difficult situations.

Members of the public also expressed confidence in the regulation of solicitors, with 73 per cent saying that they believed a solicitor involved in serious wrongdoing would be prevented from working as a solicitor.

It’s important that people feel confident that there is a robust regulatory system for solicitors and that if a solicitor is involved in serious wrongdoing then action will be taken. This is essential in maintaining the reputation of the profession as a whole, as well as the work solicitors themselves have to do to earn a good reputation for their work among their peers and their clients.

This is reflected by a solicitor or law firm’s reputation and expertise being cited as the most important factors for people looking for legal advice. Over half of the survey respondents said these were their most important considerations when choosing a solicitor, with 23 per cent saying that reputation of a solicitor or firm was most important and 22 per cent that a solicitor’s experience or expertise was most important. And while an important factor, just over a tenth of those asked, at 11 per cent, said the cost was the most important factor.

Interestingly, this new research showed the change in how people source information about local services as there has been a rise in the number of people using the internet to find a solicitor, from just over a quarter at 26 per cent in 2011 to over a third at 34 per cent in 2014. Those using a telephone directory has dropped from 28 per cent to just 12 per cent.

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Another key finding for the profession was satisfaction rates with the service provided by their solicitor. The vast majority of clients were satisfied with over two thirds, at 67 per cent saying they were very satisfied, and a further 23 per cent saying they were fairly satisfied.

While the numbers of those who expressed dissatisfaction were relatively small, with 5 per cent saying they were fairly dissatisfied and 4 per cent saying they were very dissatisfied, it is important that we at the Law Society and solicitors recognise why clients are not happy with the work of their solicitor. The research highlighted three main areas: solicitor not sufficiently knowledgeable; lack of communication; and cases taking too long to resolve.

Overall, the results from the Ipsos Mori research are very positive and we are delighted that Scottish solicitors are so well thought of. However we can never become complacent and we have to recognise that things do go wrong from time to time.

In addition to ensuring that we have a strong regulatory system in place, it’s important that we can understand the reasons behind clients’ dissatisfaction and what we at the Law Society can do to offer the right support and training and ensure that our members provide the right advice and services for their clients, whether they are buying a house, completing a business deal or appearing in court.

• Alistair Morris is president of the Law Society of Scotland: www.lawscot.org.uk