LSCP calls for strengthening of legal quality marks
The Legal Services Consumer Panel (LSCP) has published a new report in which it calls upon the operators of ‘voluntary quality schemes’ and regulators to take steps to ensure that consumers are able to use quality marks with confidence when buying legal services.
In the research for the report the LSCP assessed a total of 13 schemes against a list of 10 characteristics that each should meet in order to satisfy consumers that lawyer members are genuine specialists. Those schemes included the Conveyancing Quality Scheme and other Law Society accreditation panels together with other schemes run by professional associations in sectors such as personal injury, family law and will-writing.
The report shows that whilst most schemes performed well in relation to internal-processes (e.g. entry requirements, re-accreditation and disciplinary arrangements) other areas were in need of strengthening. These included:
- a greater use of client file spot checks to ensure that members remain competent throughout their careers;
- greater lay input;
- better information provision for consumers;
- evidence to validate claims that schemes are delivering on their objectives of helping consumers to identify expert legal advice.
However, the he report warned that limiting access to parts of the market by making scheme membership compulsory would not be beneficial and could usurp the role of regulators.
Elisabeth Davies, chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, said:
“Consumers tell us that specialist expertise is important to them when choosing lawyers so voluntary quality schemes can be of real help. However, in their current form, some schemes’ claims that their members are better than the market average just can’t be relied upon by consumers.
“Even the best schemes will struggle to be accepted by consumers due to problems with quality marks in other parts of the economy that have dented trust. We urge scheme operators and regulators to sit down with us to discuss whether independent accreditation of schemes would help to overcome this, allowing quality marks to have a greater influence on consumer choice.”