Consumer satisfaction with the value for money of legal services has risen over the past year, but trust in lawyers has fallen, according to the second 'tracker' survey carried out for the Legal Services Consumer Panel.
The YouGov survey showed that satisfaction with the value for money of legal services rose from 56% in 2011 to 59% in 2012.
It showed consumers are exerting more power as they select firms, with 22% saying they had shopped around, compared with 19% last year, and 58% of privately-paying consumers getting a fixed-fee deal, up from 56% in 2011.
The poll also found that consumers find it easier to compare providers - 57% reported this experience, up from 51% in 2011.
Less positively, the poll showed that trust in lawyers had fallen from 47% to 43%. It is particularly low among some ethnic groups, for example just 26% of people identifying themselves as of Pakistani origin said that they 'would generally trust lawyers to tell the truth'.
The public is less confident that consumer rights will be protected when using lawyers - down from 51% in 2011 to 49% in 2012; and satisfaction with customer service has also fallen.
In the 2012 survey, 27% the population reported using at least one legal service in the past two years, compared with 31% in the 2011 survey. The panel put this fall down to the impact of the economy on household finances.
Of recent users, 70% felt they had been treated as an individual rather than just another file, down by 5 percentage points on last year.
The poll also found that while more dissatisfied clients are likely to do nothing - 42% compared with 35% in 2011, a greater proportion are more likely to make a formal complaint - up from 13% in 2011 to 21% in 2012.
Panel chair Elisabeth Davies said: 'It's good to see signs of consumers starting to use their buying muscle, although this needs to be just the beginning of a major power-shift. It's concerning that service standards are slipping, yet more and more dissatisfied consumers do nothing about the treatment they've received.'
Davies added: 'The difficult economic climate is no excuse for lawyers to cut corners, but there's also a need for regulators to make it easier for consumers who get a poor service to raise their concerns with providers.'