Client confidence in the regulation of the legal profession is weak with the public unaware of whom to complain to if things go wrong, according to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
In a survey by the SRA, clients reported high levels of dissatisfaction in three core areas: costs, communication, and delays. The level of costs is the highest source of dissatisfaction. Clients complained of a lack of transparency on charging structures and uncapped costs.
SRA chairman Peter Williamson said: "This has highlighted a number of areas for us as a new independent regulator. We will be working with other regulators to learn from their experiences of engaging with consumers and look at how best to get these messages across."
There were concerns about delays in handling cases with clients suspicious that solicitors deliberately delayed cases to drive up costs. There were complaints around the levels of transparency and about the length of time cases take to get to court and eventually settle.
Clients also felt alienated by legal jargon and the high volume of legal documentation which solicitors use, the SRA added. it was felt solicitors failed to keep them up to date with developments and subsequently they are isolated from the case.
Williamson said public perceptions were that solicitors are not regulated to the same stringent levels as other industries.
The research, which will be presented to the SRA board in December, will form the basis of the SRA agenda.