Family law: A study of vulnerable consumers’ experiences
New survey and interview research by Ecorys has found that nearly half of vulnerable consumers using family law services felt their solicitor’s costs were more than they expected.
Though most of the consumers (86%) found it easy to find a solicitor, and levels of satisfaction with the quality of their work were high (58% reported ‘good’ or ‘excellent’), there were clear challenges for many of the vulnerable consumers in affording the service, the researchers found. Ecorys’ Policy and Research team carried out survey work with 115 legal firms, 117 vulnerable consumers and in-depth interviews with 16 firms and 23 vulnerable consumers to inform its report for the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA).
Just under one third of the consumers in the survey (31%) reported their solicitor’s costs to be unaffordable. It was clear from the in-depth interviews that although some of the vulnerable consumers reported to be able to cover the costs themselves, it was not possible without additional finance from other sources, the researchers concluded.
The work will inform the work of the SRA in increasing the availability of data to consumers, conducting research into costs transparency and first tier complaints, and carrying out further work to determine the prevalence and impact of some of the issues outlined in the research, according to the SRA.
The SRA said: “The report identified examples of good practice, such as firms helping consumers to make informed choices about the services they need by using trained staff to answer initial calls and holding free initial meetings.
“However, discussions with consumers uncovered a number of issues that require further investigation, particularly in relation to information on costs and services. A lack of information in this area may make it difficult for the public to choose between different legal service providers.”
The report, Experiences of consumers who may be vulnerable in family law, has been published on the SRA’s website.
For more information on the project, contact either Catie Erskine or Kath McKenna from our Policy and Research team.