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In the second of our articles during mediation awareness week, we refer to a survey on the business of law publisher by Lexis Nexis.

The survey found that lawyers did not appreciate that they work in a service industry and clients do not agree with them that they provide value for money.

What clients want is not necessarily their day in Court but to resolve their dispute, quickly and efficiently, which is where mediation comes in.

Lawyers rate the value of their services far more highly than do their clients:

Asked whether their law firms provided value for money, most clients rated their firms as average or good. The vast majority of lawyers rated the value of their services as very good or excellent.

The disparity is blamed on lawyers taking the view that simply cutting fees translates to good value for clients. However, the researchers maintain that clients adopt a far more sophisticated view of legal services.

In the survey while only 27 per cent of clients rated their law firms as providing very good or excellent value for money, 76 per cent of lawyers put the services in those categories.

Likewise, while lawyers perceived that the most important issue for clients was a “clear indication of cost” and the offer of fixed fees, clients themselves identified a “clear understanding of my particular needs” as their foremost concern. Indeed, in a list of 14 issues, clients rated costs and fee structures in fifth position.

One of the most striking themes to emerge from the findings is the insular nature of lawyers – whether they are independent lawyers, midsize law rms or sole practitioners. They have a tendency to look within their own profession for answers, without realising that many of the problems they face are common to other professions and industries – especially other service industries. The problem, as 77% agree, is that ‘lawyers don’t recognise they are operating in the service industry’, so they are unlikely to look outside their own sector for support. This suggests that the biggest change needs to be a shift in attitude, with lawyers learning to think outside their traditional lawyer’s box.

21% surveyed said that the government push towards ‘mediation’ could be seen as an opportunity.