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Law Soc publishes behavioural research of consumers choosing divorce services

Price comparison particularly difficult in respect of family law disputes

The Law Society has responded to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) consultation Looking to the Future: better information, more choice.

The consultation makes a number of proposals, including a new requirement that solicitor firms should be required to publish price and service information on their websites for certain areas of law relating to individuals and small business customers.

The Law Society's response has been informed by specially commissioned independent behavioural research, carried out by London Economics and YouGov, to better understand consumer behaviour and help solicitors to provide the best information to consumers. The research explores the consumer decision-making process when searching for legal services in three areas, one of which is divorce.

The research showed that consumers may not read or understand all of the information that they are provided, and may overlook important factors if information is presented in the wrong way.

In respect of price transparency, the Law Society response states that some consumers will not be able to assess the extent of their legal needs at the time of initial enquiry. It is therefore unlikely that accurate and meaningful price information can be provided on a website. Any elements of litigation or disagreement can result in uncertainty, meaning family law disputes can present particular problems in this regard. The research shows that divorce customers are more likely to understand that unforeseen complications can cause price changes.

The Law Society says that it is important that clients can make informed decisions about the solicitors they choose, and they need to have the right information at the right time. However, it says, clients have very different legal needs, and legal services are complex. Simply requiring more information to be published on websites is unlikely to result in people making more informed choices. Solicitors are already required to provide the best possible information on cost to their clients, and the SRA should allow the market to respond to consumer demands for information in an appropriate way.

For the Law Society response and the behavioural research, click here. For the consultation paper, click here.