Making progress on indicators of quality

17 July, 2020

Comments from Stephen Ward, Director of Strategy and External Affairs at the CLC

It is now some eighteen months since we along with other frontline legal regulators introduced new transparency requirements on the legal service providers we regulate.

The aim was to enable consumers to be able to make a more informed choice in choosing who they want as their property or probate lawyer.

Thanks to the new rules that came into effect in December 2018, all property and probate lawyers are required to publish price, service and quality information on their websites (or in alternative formats if requested), as part of an industry-wide push to empower consumers and foster innovation and competition across the legal services market.

The Chief Executive of the CLC, Sheila Kumar, chairs a pan-sector group (RPIG) that continues to monitor the implementation of the changes and in this role, she liaises with the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) whose initial study was the catalyst for much of this activity.

So eighteen months on where are we now? We know from our own monitoring that CLC practices are complying well with the requirements we introduced. We are also aware that other regulators are monitoring compliance in their sectors and we will all be working with the CMA as they begin to look at the impact of the changes.

What we also know is that more needs {should?] to be done if consumers are to truly be able to make an informed choice. The piece of the jigsaw that is still missing is identifying some form of indicators consumers can use to understand the quality of the service being provided.

We are firmly of the view that whatever proxy is used as a marker for quality needs to be simple and easy to use; not creating a new learning journey for consumers but mirroring tools they already use in their day-to-day lives.

While we recognise that there is not a settled view across all regulators, as to the best way forward as a specialist regulator we start from the place that:

  • As the most widely used consumer legal service conveyancing makes a good issue to lead any pilot;
  • We should not wait until there is a matrix of indicators for all services;
  • Rather than seeking to create something new, we should look for what is already in the market that can be used as a quality indicator;
  • The best way forward is to pilot, test and then amend as feedback shows change may be required.
  • Independent client feedback provides a potentially fruitful route to explore.

We are aware that forthcoming research will show that consumers need more information to best make an informed choice. We will continue to work with key stakeholders including the Legal Services Board, the Legal Services Consumer Panel and the other frontline regulators of conveyancing services. But we believe the answer is already out there and the time now is for action that delivers for consumers.

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