Better public information
5 December 2016
We have published some initial ideas for improving the information available about law firms and solicitors, which could help people make more informed choices and result in a more competitive legal sector.
We are not making firm proposals at this point. We want to stimulate discussion, so we can develop our thinking. We very much want to understand your views around potential benefits and how we could effectively manage risks.
If we get this right, we could help create a more open and accessible market, where the pubic can make better choices and firms can thrive. It will also help small businesses access the legal services that could help them succeed and grow.
In our discussion paper, Regulatory data and consumer choice in legal services, we explore what information we could publish through a public register. We suggest that consumers could benefit from information such as basic firm data, individuals' practice restrictions, complaints data and insurance claims.
We also consider what other information would help, perhaps though publication by firms. Examples could include quality marks and service prices
This is part of a wider discussion in the sector, with recent calls by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), in its interim report on its market study, as well as from the Legal Services Consumers Panel (LSCP), to improve the level of information available for consumers.
We agree that a lack of clear, targeted information means it is difficult for people to compare providers and make informed choices.
Tackling problem of legal access
Better information could help tackle the problem that the legal needs of individuals and small businesses are not being met.
Only one in ten people use a solicitor when they have a legal problem. And legal problems are estimated to cause small businesses almost £10 billion of losses a year, yet 83 percent see legal services as unaffordable.
Greater transparency would also bring legal services more in line with other sectors, such as financial services and energy, where there is already a huge amount of information available, through comparison websites, for example.
We recognise that there needs to be careful consideration of the implications of publishing more information. Risks to consider include increased burdens on firms and a one-size-fits-all approach working well for some and not others.
For example, the needs of corporate clients will be different to those of an individual member of the public.
Publishing useful data in one place would not only help consumers directly, but indirectly as data re-publishers could use it to develop comparison tools that could increase access and help make the market more competitive.
We plan to consult on proposals in this area next year.
You can find our discussion paper here:
Go to the discussion paper
You can also see a presentation and a panel discussion on regulatory data from our compliance officer conference in October.
They are available on our YouTube channel:
Go to the presentation
Go to the panel discussion
Our YouTube channel also has a host of videos explaining how everyone will benefit.
Why do we want to publish?
How will it help?
Tell us what information the public needs