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Lawyers rank top for satisfaction, value for money, but access to justice gaps persist

Solicitors in England and Wales received a glowing review in a new survey of legal needs but evidence of gaps in access to justice shows the profession has a perception problem.

The survey – the largest legal needs survey of its kind – was conducted by the Legal Services Board and Law Society using data collected by YouGov covering the experiences of 28,633 people. Solicitors ranked highest for service satisfaction, with nine out of 10 people who had used a solicitor satisfied with the service they received, while 84% believed the solicitor provided value for money.

Overall, two in three people had experienced a legal issue in the prior four-year period surveyed, most of which were contentious in nature (53%).  Two-thirds of people received help, 55% of which was from professional sources and 11% from friends and family. A further 21% did not try and find help, however, and 13% tried but could not.

Respondents were most likely to choose solicitors as their main adviser, at 30%, rising to 40% for a contentious issue.  Doctors, not-for-profit sources, Citizens Advice and law centres all equated to 32%.

Despite the endorsement for solicitors, the survey detailed gaps in access to justice. A third of people did not seek professional help for legal problems, with those who feel justice is inaccessible less likely to obtain professional help. Of those with ‘low legal confidence’ over half did not get professional help (54% compared to 47% of those who had high confidence).

The survey also detailed discrepancies based on demographics. Older people and white British people were more likely to seek out a solicitor, while younger people were more likely to pursue support from friends or family. 40% of people aged over 65 reported that a solicitor was their main adviser, while just 18% of those aged 18-29 did.

For those who did not seek help while involved in contentious and non-contentious legal issues, 23% believed they knew enough while 21% felt it would be prohibitively expensive. Slightly more than a fifth felt it was because the issue was not important enough.