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All grist to the mill

17 March 14

The 2013 Ipsos MORI survey of members’ perceptions and opinions has once again provided valuable feedback to help the Society shape its future priorities

by Angus Maclauchlan

The Law Society of Scotland carried out our annual research with members in November 2013. As in previous years, the aims were to explore members’ perceptions of the Society, the services we provide and the priorities for the future. The feedback is invaluable to the Society for reviewing and informing our corporate plan, responding to members’ views, and assessing progress against the previous year’s results.

The research was carried out by Ipsos MORI via a telephone survey of 500 members. This method is more robust than a self-selecting email survey, as it allows the sample to be weighted, therefore ensuring it is representative of the profession as a whole, while enabling analysis of key groups. Members were selected from the Society’s database using stratified random sampling.

Overall, those members surveyed said that the Society was doing a good job; and that regulatory issues should be the Society’s top priority, with improving legislation, legal aid and conveyancing all featuring highly on the priority list. Perceptions of the Society remain positive, especially in the area of regulation which, given its perceived priority, is welcome.

The results show that, overall, satisfaction is higher with those working for big firms, in-house or as trainees, and less so for respondents working on the high street or involved with legal aid. The Society will continue to focus our efforts on both of these areas. Satisfaction with key services, such as the Professional Practice team, Update conference and events, and trainee services remains high.

Member priorities

This year, the options were slightly expanded. For example, we included more questions about regulation. The fact that all three regulation options topped the list of priorities indicates how important they are perceived to be by members.

The top priorities were:

  • Intervening in firms where a critical failure has been identified
  • Inspecting firms to ensure compliance with the accounting rules
  • Investigating conduct complaints against solicitors and prosecuting cases to the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal
  • Suggesting improvements to legislation in the UK and Scottish Parliaments
  • Protecting the legal aid budget and representing those solicitors working in legal aid
  • Tackling conveyancing issues with banks and other lending institutions

Member perceptions

Perceptions of the Society remain high, with good scores for: effectiveness as a regulator; being proactive in providing regulatory advice; and being helpful and approachable. Likewise, the Society continuing to represent, support and regulate the profession was strongly supported. While most of the results are in line with last year, the perception of the Society being seen as effective at leading and supporting fell back to the 2011 level after spiking last year. More analysis is required to fully determine the reason for this fluctuation.

For the first time, we included a question about whether Scotland’s economic prospects would improve or stay the same.While only 46% thought they might improve, it is interesting to note that optimism among the profession is higher than optimism among the public, which is at only 37%.

Communication with members

The Society scored well in terms of: providing well-informed, accurate and reliable information; giving members an opportunity to interact; and seeking members’ views before making a decision. The latter increased by 7% over the year. When asked about the type of information that the Society provided and the range of services offered, the Society scored least well. This is an area that the Society will work on during the year.

The Journal magazine continues to be well read, although fewer members visit Journal online. Asked about other providers of legal news, Scottish Legal News is the most regularly used source.

Use of social media for business purposes increased this year, with LinkedIn clearly the most popular. Usage was higher among those working in big firms, the in-house private sector and those under 35 years of age. While a third of solicitors are still not using any of the top three social media platforms in their professional lives, the figure has fallen considerably in the last 12 months.

Administrative changes 

We asked questions around general meetings, with 61% stating that they were unlikely ever to attend a meeting. It was therefore not surprising that almost 90% believed that, if they could not attend, they should be able to vote electronically. This is an issue which is being looked at by the Society’s Constitution Working Party. Last year, there was some useful feedback on the introduction of electronic membership cards, which was incorporated into the project delivery plan.

Services: meeting the need?

Awareness levels of the Professional Practice service were up and, although usage was marginally down, satisfaction scores in terms of quality, ease of use and helpfulness improved on last year.

Overall satisfaction with Update conference and events remains high. There was a 13% improvement recorded for the range of locations where training and events were held. The Update team had noted the drop in satisfaction rating for this score last year and was keen to address the issue, so it was encouraging to see this score improve. 

The provision of career information and a trainee helpline were regarded as the priorities for those trainees surveyed. 

Career progression

The Society is always keen to increase our understanding of what career-related qualifications and accreditations members are choosing. While most of the statistics were broadly similar to last year, with practice area qualification and specialist accreditation remaining the most popular, there was a significant increase in demand for management qualifications. Just over half the respondents said that they would be interested in cross-industry networking opportunities. These are both areas that we will look to develop in the forthcoming year.

In-house

We were keen to include questions specific to the in-house sector, and whether more or less work was being carried out in-house. While just over half the in-house respondents said that there had been no change in the size of the legal function within their organisation, 26% reported an increase and 21% a decrease. Of those reporting an increase, the most common reason was due to the organisation taking on new areas of work. The most common reason for a decrease was due to cost cutting.

The Society’s staff will continue to analyse the feedback from the members’ survey to ensure that members’ views inform our work. More details of the Society’s work can be found in our corporate plan. In the meantime, the Society would like to express its gratitude to all members of the profession who contributed to the research. More details are available on the Society’s website.

Angus Maclauchlan is marketing manager at the Law Society of Scotland

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