New strategy and work programme
In March the Panel published a new three-year strategy alongside our work programme for 2015-16. The Panel has five new strategic aims:
Extending access to justice to those who currently cannot obtain the services they need to resolve legal problems or are poorly served by the market
Improving the regulatory and complaints system so that it adequately protects consumers and keeps pace with changing market risks
Equipping consumers with the information and tools they need to choose and use legal services effectively
Ensuring unregulated providers raise standards and offer access to redress
Securing legislative reforms to modernise the wider regulatory framework
Highlights from our new work programme include:
Identifying what kind of information regulators could collect from firms to aid consumer choice
Conducting joint research with the Legal Ombudsman on perceptions of fairness of its decisions
Seeking funding for a study on good practice by consumer redress schemes in using complaints data to raise standards in the market
Exploring the feasibility of conducting the first ever quantitative survey on litigants in person
Continuing to push the Legal Ombudsman to establish a voluntary scheme and accept third party complaints in certain circumstances
You can view the new strategy and work programme
Use of the Defamation Act to stifle consumer reviews
In February Panel member Michelle Goddard blogged on the issue of how the Defamation Act 2013 can be used to muffle consumer reviews about lawyers. Michelle pointed out that although consumers may not always
be able to judge the technical quality of work, they are quite able to judge whether or not they have received a good service and they often comment on aspects such as whether they have been kept updated or had to chase progress. This provides useful feedback
for other potential users and timely feedback to lawyers. Making threats of defamation actions to ensure negative feedback is removed from websites is poor practice and the value of consumer feedback needs to be embraced so that improvements can be made.
At the same time we also responded to a CMA call for evidence on online reviews and endorsements, highlighting the problem. You can read our response to the CMA here.
There is an issue here around consumer protection and how lawyers react to and handle complaints, and this is a topic we may want to revisit in future.
Our joint qualitative research study with the Legal Services on unbundled service delivery is going well. Ipsos MORI have been contracted to
carry out interviews with consumers, providers and the judiciary. This is particularly timely given the rise in litigants in person and the Law Society recently updating its practice note for solicitors. We expect to publish the research report this Summer.