Which? research rings warning bells

The recent survey carried out by Which? magazine has caused the usual outburst of denial by all those associated with the legal profession. The research is said to be invalid, the results are deemed to be wrong etc.

Whichever way you look at it, the reflection on the legal profession is not good if such a large percentage of law firms is unable to provide the basic service of giving advice.

In fact, the results of the research – even allowing for a wide margin of error – are staggering.

That bad advice can be given out so systematically by so many is an issue that must be looked at immediately by those who supervise the profession. Of course, it could be pointed out that surveys on any of the other professions would reveal a similar state of affairs. Many, for example, would be interested in research on the medical profession, and no doubt the results may reveal a similar level of knowledge on the part of doctors.

The legal profession could point out that, on a redeeming note, much of the advice by lawyers was free. However, no consumer wants bad advice, whether free or not. It is just more galling to have to pay for it.

The basic problem is that, while issues of client care are now wafting their way into the consciousness of lawyers, there are still many in the profession who do not have the basic tool of their business – the ability to give good advice. And still others will not admit that a particular problem falls outside their area of expertise.

It is a difficult issue to deal with. After all, most advice is unsupervised and only the most aggrieved will complain.

The introduction of quality standards will help but it will not resolve the problem.

It is time that the Law Society looked seriously and productively at the matter instead of taking pot-shots at the messenger.