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According to a Lexis Nexis report on the state of the legal profession, clients have a far lower opinion of the abilities of their law firms than the lawyers have of themselves. Law firms need to be more aware of their needs, or complaints will follow.

If law firms face complaints they must notify clients of the right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman as well of certified ADR Providers and if the client agrees mediation can be a quick and effective way of dealing with complaints rather than the Legal Ombudsman.

Lawyers who recognise clients’ needs are likely to be more successful in retaining clients and avoiding claims and complaints. One area where clients are often dissatisfied is litigation, with lawyers’ services not matching up to expectations. Clients may well want to resolve matters quickly and avoid proceedings altogether, which is where mediation comes in.

According to the report senior solicitors in law firms are far more likely to maintain that they have a “clear understanding of client needs” than are the clients themselves. 56 per cent of solicitors said they had a clear understanding of those needs, but only 32 per cent of clients agreed.

Other significant variances related to keeping clients informed, crucially around value and costs.  48 per cent of law firm solicitors claimed to be very good at communicating with clients, but only 29 per cent of those paying the bills agreed.

On the issue of fees and value for money, 49% of firms reckoned that they gave their clients a clear indication of likely costs, but only 32 per cent of clients agreed. Likewise, 46 per cent of law firms were adamant that they provided good value, but only 19 per cent of those receiving the service agreed.

The message is clear – law firms need to understand clients’ needs better and explain costs to them. In respect of litigation, clients’ needs may include resolving disputes quicker and more cheaply through mediation, rather than engaging in long drawn out costly legal proceedings. ProMediate has a panel of mediators who can help by mediating disputes and resolving them quickly, which is what clients invariably need.