Legal professionals got a net trust score of 24%, made up of 17% saying they trust solicitors, 13% barristers and 11% lawyers generally. Accountants polled 14%.
A sizeable 57% do not trust any of these professions.
The study also looked at what people want from a system for handling complaints against professionals. When asked what two things they saw as most important, 52% wanted a fair system led by independent people, 33% wanted quick resolution of the complaint, 22% wanted regular updates and 21% wanted an inexpensive system.
Easy-to-understand documents and quick and easy forms were rated as important by 16% and 14%.
Most – 60% – said they would go to the internet if they want to ask about making a complaint against a lawyer. Some 50% said they would go to a Citizen’s Advice Bureau, 31% a regulatory body for legal professionals, 19% friends or family in the legal profession, and 14% friends or family who had had recent dealings with the legal profession.
Asked what might stop them making a complaint, 71% said cost, 39% the odds being stacked against the complainant, 35% lack of trust in the independence or fairness of system, and 29% the time involved.
A profession with its own regulatory body is seen more positively by 41%, the same by 35% and more negatively by 15%.
Bar Standards Board Chair Ruth Deech said: "Lack of public trust in the professions is clearly a substantial issue.
"While legal professionals don’t fare too badly in this poll, their net trust rating of 24% is at best underwhelming.
"Having an independent regulatory arm, such as the Bar Standards Board, is one way that the professions can improve public attitudes towards them.
"The research also shows the importance the public attaches to fair and simple complaints handling, such as the model we are introducing today as part of our drive towards the state of the art in this regard."
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