Thursday 16 April 2015

No client, no pay ..

The following media release from YouGov ("an international, full-service market research agency which is considered the pioneer of market research through online methods") brings some depressing news for solo/small IP practices in general.  More than one third of the consuming population in the UK are never likely to use a lawyer in their entire lifetimes -- and, if they do, it is likely to be for mundane activities like making a will, buying or renting a home or seeking compensation after having an accident.  What's more, most people who seek legal advice expect to get it for nothing.
Usage of legal services remains unchanged 
New research from YouGov Reports shows that a majority of consumers have used a solicitor or law firm in their lifetime. 
The Legal Services 2015 report finds that most adults (62%) have used a law firm or solicitor at some point in their lifetime; this remains the same as the previous report in December 2013. Adults who fall in the ABC1 social grade are more likely to have used a solicitor (70%) compared to adults in the C2DE grade (53%). 
Additionally, the report shows that usage of legal services increases with age. 85% of the over 55’s have used them compared with 12% of young adults aged 16-24. 
The research found that conveyancing and making a will and probate are the main areas of legal advice among adults who have used a law firm or solicitor in the last three years. 34% of consumers who have used a solicitor in the last three years, used them for will writing and probate services; this is followed by those who used a law firm for legal advice relating to residential conveyancing (24%). The third most popular area for legal advice is personal injury/accidents/medical negligence matters (11%). 
Cost of services is now considered the most important factor when searching for a legal representative. Three quarters of consumers (75%) reported cost as an influence when choosing a legal representative, up by 6 percentage points on the December 2013 survey. Cost has now surpassed experience and reputation of legal advisors as a factor, which is now the second most important factor (74%). 
The idea of solicitors charging for legal consultation the minute a consumer walks through the door is not popular among adults who have used a solicitor/law firm in the last three years. A majority of adults (57%) expected to receive free advice or information about their legal issues; only 7% did not receive this. 
Meanwhile, 29% of the adults who did not expect to receive any free legal consultation from their solicitors (43%) did not receive any. In total, 64% of adults report to have received free legal advice in the last three years – up by 6 percentage points on the December 2013 survey.  
In the last 18 months, one in ten adults (10%) contemplated paying for some legal advice but changed their mind. The main reasons for deciding against the idea was because they could not afford it (4%), it seemed complicated (3%), and they did not want to pay for further advice after initially receiving some free legal advice (3%). 
James McCoy, Research Director of YouGov Reports, commented on the findings: “Costs of services and fee charges now play a much bigger role for most adults using legal services. 
“There has also been an increase in the proportion of consumers who now receive free legal advice – whether expected or not - suggesting that legal representatives are becoming more open to the idea of providing free consultation.”
So the bottom line seems to be that most people -- even among those who need legal services -- are unlikely to come to you for patent, trade mark, design or copyright advice.  If perchance they do, they are likely to be more interested in your charges than your experience. When they ask for your advice they probably don't expect to pay for it and, even if they do contemplate payment, there's a good chance that they'll change their minds. But don't we know this already ...?


  1. which is why mostly we dont work for individuals

  2. Who needs these clients anyway? Their IP is likely to be worthless. We avoid like the plague.

  3. I agree that, as business lawyers, we don't need to be too concerned about what consumers want or do. There's no money in advising consumers, unless you own a firm that is doing large volume work, eg personal injury.

    The problem, I think, is that Government policy on legal services focuses on consumers. This affects us when our regulators take their lead from the Government. The link to the SRA website in a Google search has a title that reads "SRA: Protecting Consumers..."

    This sometimes results in absurd rule-making for our types of work, eg on engagement letters, complaints handling, etc. The SRA's recent move to outcomes-based regulation may help, but the mindset is still there. We need to make common cause with lawyers practising in other business areas, eg M&A, construction projects, to change the mindset of those in power over us, and shift them away from thinking that all lawyers work for consumers.