In his 2004 book "The Paradox of Choice - Why More Is Less" American psychologist Barry Schwartz argues that elimination of choice is key to reducing anxiety in consumers.

He writes, "Autonomy and freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don't seem to be benefiting from it psychologically."

There was, in fact, nothing new about the idea. For several millennia philosophers have been struggling to comprehend what freedom and choice mean and what enabling these things can do to the human mind.

Oddly, what many thinkers fail to observe is the difference between uneducated, random choices and more targeted, intelligent choices. It is reasonable to postulate that the latter kind, because they are made from a position of knowledge and power are far less likely to induce anxiety than the former kind.

If you start researching something surely you will be able to make a good choice?

Take the situation of a retailer researching the purchase of packaging for a new product. As they search they find out there are thousands of types of packaging out there, with hundreds of different permutations revolving around colour and choice of material. Is this knowledge likely to induce certainty and clarity or create further anxiety about the choice? After all, how can you possibly single out the perfect components, and then how can you know that you have made the right choice when you finally make a decision?

Yet, if you are given the ability to quickly make intelligent and informed choices about the choices and what you need the materials to do, this can greatly reduce the scope for apprehension.

It can be seen that it is not choice per se that is the problem but the lack of empowerment when it comes to making a choice. Give consumers (in Oratto's case legal consumers) an efficient way to become empowered decision makers and the issue of choice no longer becomes a problem or a paradox but rather an opportunity.

So, with legal services choices now in mind, what exactly is it that consumers want from their commercial lawyers?

Vanilla Research

Surprisingly, Quality in Legal Services Legal Services Consumer Panel 2010, found that "quality factors are not strongly influencing consumers' choice of lawyer and that consumers wrongly assume that legal services are risk-free".

This is supported by a study carried out by Vanilla Research for the Solicitors Regulation Authority. It found that "consumers felt unable to judge the quality of legal services for themselves."

Various reasons were cited for this, from feelings that "the legal world is above their heads" and problems actively comparing different firms. As a result, consumers too often relied on inappropriate recommendations (often unrelated to the area of specialism which they sought) or over-focused on service standards rather than the standard of the actual advice or representation.

In fact, in being asked to define good quality, participants focused on customer service, rather than the quality and accuracy of the legal knowledge they received. That said, the following were considered to be the cornerstones of good service:

  • 1. Empathy
  • 2. Efficient processes
  • 3. Clarity and de-mystification
  • 4. Proactive use of legal knowledge
  • 5. Professional presentation
  • 6. Technical knowledge

As can be seen, technical knowledge, perhaps the key ingredient for a good lawyer, was rated some way down on the list of key lawyer qualities. It's not to say the other things don't matter – they do, enormously – just that without the right tools for identifying the right lawyer for the job, it can be enormously difficult for a legal services consumer to make an efficient and accurate assessment regarding whether a lawyer possesses suitable technical knowledge.

The research showed that this was particularly true when looking for specialist solicitors, with consumers often only looking at firm's marketing materials, or relying on a recommendation rather than looking at whether an individual solicitor truly specialises in their area of legal need.

So, the Oratto platform takes away the paradox and uncertainty of choice and replaces it with an intelligent tool that allows you to pick the specialist lawyer who is right for you. Tell us what your legal issue is, and some factors which are important to you, and we will find you the member solicitor who matches your needs.

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