In my first MemberWise blog- Never Mind the Gap- try plugging it! published in November ’18, I focused on the UK’s ‘unmet legal services gap’. 

I reported that less than 30% of consumers get formal legal advice for their legal problems, and only 8% of small businesses get formal advice on legal issues.

This stark legal access deficit is caused by several factors, including the high cost of getting professional advice, perceptions of complexity and time commitments.

In late 2018, we continued our survey of UK trade associations, examining the extent to which they facilitated members to obtain legal support and advice.

Our initial investigations, referenced in my first blog, showed that 80% of Associations gave no legal help to members at all.

Having increased both the number of survey targets and the granularity of the data collected, some useful conclusions can now be drawn.


The first is that the percentage of Associations providing some form of legal help to members is slightly more at 23%, leaving a very substantial 77% who do not.

My next conclusion is that the UK’s macro legal access deficit, as measured by others (e.g. the Competition & Markets Authority), is firmly reflected in its trade associations.

We looked at the data to see where the main deficit fell and where it was less pronounced.

In other words, which type of associations are helping members with their legal problems more than others. These are the results:

The categories that fare worst in providing legal support to their members include those in the following sectors: professional, medical & healthcare, education, services, manufacturing, science and arts & entertainment. The stats we have developed on four of these groupings are shown below.

As we enter an even more complex world, one dominated by new political and legal relationships (whatever the outcome of Brexit), there is a growing and important need for membership associations of all kinds to be proactive in offering their members greater help with their legal questions.

Where time is of the essence and cash is king, both businesses and individuals alike are going to turn increasingly to the resources and purchasing power of the trade, business, consumer, professional and other such groups to which they belong.

These bodies can, and frequently do, represent crucial repositories for members’ discrete and broader interests and are in a position to offer an informational and resource and pricing leverage that is generally unattainable by their individual members.

Offering members highly practical benefits, such as access to a range of services including, for example, insurance cover and legal support, is a sure way of helping to improve their overall membership experience which, in turn, will help enhance membership loyalty.

Whether offering legal help is bespoke or more generic depends, initially, on an assessment of membership requirements.

Although, so far as I can see, no authoritative study has been done on the losses (time and money) suffered by businesses and individuals due to a lack of legal help and advice when needed, it is likely to be considerable.

What is not in doubt, is that the independent research that has been done shows there is a worryingly large legal access gap across the UK. This is especially so for SMEs, that make up such a substantial part of the country’s private sector.

It is clear to me, and I also speak from personal experience here, that trade and business associations are in a prime position to help their members by providing a range of beneficial services.

Help with getting access to legal information and support could usefully be and, some might argue, should be on all associations’ agenda for inclusion as a vital membership benefit.

Atkins-Shield Ltd builds legal help desks for membership associations, institutes, academies and user groups. Our clear objective: to give users a curated, reliable, easy to use legal leg-up and, most important, to help plug that gap.

Jeremy Cama, Founder, Atkins-Shield Ltd, #Access-to-Law-For-All Follow us on: Twitter