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LeO Links – our quarterly bite-size knowledge alerts

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Katherine Wilson, Policy and Research Associate

The Legal Ombudsman is committed to sharing and disseminating what we learn with the public and the industry – it’s one of our key strategic priorities. Throughout the year we will publish LeO Links – summaries of information that we come across during our research that we think our readers will find interesting and relevant to their work.

If you would like any further information about the projects or issues mentioned please contact Katherine Wilson, Data and Insight Associate (katherine.wilson@legalombudsman.org.uk).

In the last quarter, two significant research projects kicked off for LeO - the Language of Complaints research and collaborative research with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) into first tier complaints. Read more about each project below:

Language of Complaints research

This innovative piece of research will explore the impact that language has on complaint outcomes throughout the legal and claims management complaints process. In particular, it will seek to understand how the use of language and communication influences people’s ability to engage in the complaints process at both the first and second tier and the choices people make during the complaints process.

Using an exploratory approach, IFF, our research partners, will conduct a series of interviews and focus groups with LeO staff, complainants and users of legal services to unpick the nuances of language and its effects on choice.

The researchers will also review our written and verbal communications and explore customers’ reactions to how we engage with them throughout the course of our investigations. Having a better understanding of how the language and terminology we use impacts on our customers’ behaviour and choices, will provide us with an evidence base to improve our written and verbal communication and deliver against our customer service principles.

The project will review communication at the first tier so we can feed back to the profession and drive improvements in complaint handling throughout the complaints process.

First tier complaints research

March saw the launch of our joint research project with the SRA, into how firms' handling of complaints can influence the quality of service clients receive.

All firms are obliged to have proper processes for handling complaints about their service, prior to them coming to LeO, including making sure that potential clients are aware of their rights before work on their case starts. Firms also have to provide the SRA with information about the complaints they receive over each practising year.

This research will examine if there are any issues to consider about how effective firms' complaints processes are. We want to:

  • understand the approaches firms have to dealing with complaints
  • understand any barriers firms face in handling complaints well
  • highlight examples of good practice in the handling of complaints, and identify any poor practice
  • gain a consumer perspective on firms' complaints handling
The work will include researchers speaking to firms and members of the public to ask their views, so you may be contacted by YouGov or London Economics, our research partners.

Findings for both research projects are due in the autumn and, in the meantime, you can access resources such as our Guide to good complaints handling and signposting pack, which are both available from our website.

MoneySavingExpert.com report about ombudsmen

In April, MoneySavingExpert.com launched a consumer survey into people’s experiences with an ombudsman. They are writing a report about how effective ombudsmen are for a cross-party parliamentary group which you can read more about here.

Survey questions include:

  • Whose side did you think the ombudsman was on (regardless of whether you liked the decision)?
  • How easy was the complaints process with the ombudsman?
  • How slowly or quickly did you feel the ombudsman dealt with your complaint?
  • Do you feel the ombudsman’s decision was fair?

Citizens Advice research into ADR

In April, Citizens Advice published its research: Confusion, gaps and overlaps: a consumer perspective on alternative dispute resolution between consumers and businesses. The research, conducted by Queen Margaret University’s Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre and the University of Westminster, compared the performance of ADR schemes across a wide range of consumer markets, including the Financial Ombudsman Service and Ombudsman Services, and asked whether they met consumer expectations and delivered the best customer outcomes.

Three core messages arose from the research: The ADR landscape is confusing for consumers; the current ADR landscape is not designed with consumers’ needs in mind, and improving ADR provision is hampered by a lack of good quality data.

Six key recommendations were made including that mandatory ADR should be extended across all consumer sectors and in regulated sectors, ADR should be limited to one provider in each sector.

The Queen Margaret University also conducted research for the Legal Ombudsman in 2013 – looking at the future of ombudsman schemes: drivers for change and strategic responses.

LSB Research Understanding changes in prices of legal services

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has commissioned research to understand how prices of common legal services purchased by individual consumers change over time.

The primary purpose of this research is to create a robust methodology that can be replicated in the years ahead, as well as providing a clear picture of prices that are currently paid.

Fieldwork, including telephone surveys, is currently being undertaken and further information about the project can be found here.

SRA Research on vulnerable consumers in family law

In March, the SRA published its research report into the experiences of consumers who may be vulnerable in family law. From the perspective of legal firms and consumers, the research explored the accessibility, cost and quality of family law services in the context of recent legal aid reforms.

Key findings were:

  • Consumers reported issues with accessing the necessary information to make an informed choice, particularly around cost and an individual solicitor's experience.
  • Almost half (47 per cent) of consumers felt that their solicitor's costs were more than expected. Of this group, two thirds (26 respondents) said that their solicitor had not explained why the cost was higher.
  • Just over half (58 per cent) of consumers rated the overall quality of the service they received as either good or excellent.
  • Consumers who were dissatisfied were unlikely to complain, with reasons identified as not being aware of the process, concerns that it would affect their case and not feeling comfortable to complain.

The SRA is using the findings of this research and the recent CMA report to inform its future work, including research into costs transparency.

LSCP reports on the development of information remedies in legal services and consumer segmentation

In March, the Legal Services Consumer Panel (LSCP) published two reports - one on the effectiveness of information remedies in legal services regulation and how these could be improved, and another on customer segmentation to improve regulatory outcomes.

Both full reports and recommendations can be found here.  

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