This is going to be a very important area for professional services firms. How do you choose a lawyer, an accountant, a surveyor, an architect, a dentist and...even a doctor?

Simples! (sorry!) Obviously, you go to visit comparethe[insert profession].com.  

The Legal Standards Board (LSB) has completed research on consumer attitudes to how they chose a lawyer - it's unfortunate that the sample size it had for the research is so small.  It's very difficult to draw serious conclusions from 69 responses. And yet...

I think we should reflect on the mood music and the direction of travel.  More than 50% of clients are now Millenials.  Millenials have grown up with technology and applications as a standard feature of their lives.  They are likely to expect the same from the professions as they increasingly engage with them. 

We just have to work out how to get it right. A couple of years ago I wrote about law firm directories and the issues in producing meaningful information to enable clients to make informed choices - you can read 118 188 Legal here. In law we spend a lot of time and effort getting entries in what are called the Directories.  The trouble is that I'm not convinced that many clients use these to inform their choice (or even know they exist) and anyway they are focussed on commercial law in the main. Is it any wonder we are still talking about unmet legal need in 2021!! The Law Society operates "Find a Solicitor" but that is just names, numbers and areas of practice and is often out of date.  It's the level of Yellow Pages in 1980 not 2020.

The LSB are right to focus on how clients chose their lawyers.  The SRA, themselves regulated by the LSB, have required regulated law firms to publish pricing information in certain areas of practice - for instance - conveyancing or employment law. The problem is that just sharing the price doesn't enable a fully informed choice to be made by a client. The cheapest may not be the best or best suited to the client, just as the most expensive may also not be right for reasons that have nothing to do with cost.  

Other data - collected from a variety of sources - including claims by clients for negligence, complaints about poor service, referrals by clients to the Legal Ombudsman are interesting sources of comparative data.  Just as the results of those actions are key as well.  Imagine if we chose surgeons based solely on survival rates or on how many medical negligence claims (not judgments, claims) they had faced.  You see the problem!

Dare I mention the pandemic? One thing it has done is to focus us all on data.  We all know there are lies, damn lies and statistics.  But big data and even cleverer analytics ar all around us now. So, it can't be beyond us to provide differing selection tools for clients.  A directory with basic core information for the mass market available on the internet where the data can be independently verified must be possible.  That may link to a service that enables a client to be guided through the choices for a modest fee -perhaps.  There are existing equivalents that help business clients with the selection of lawyers so why not for all clients?

The fact this is new, the fact this is difficult shouldn't detract from the fact it's vital to help build public trust in professions (all of them) for objective data to be easily and simply presented to make informed choices better.

I'll leave you with a question. Should the buyers of legal services be left to comparison site technologies to inform their choice with the attendant questions about motive and incentive or is there a next gen solution around the corner?

Whatever it is let's keep it "simples"!