Etre's user-centred design approach has helped the Law Society achieve its largest ever response to a consultation. Based on its experience of similar research, the Law Society had anticipated around 2,000 responses to its "Have Your Say" consultation questionnaire. Etre's work in improving its usability and accessibility meant that this expectation was dramatically exceeded. By the end of the consultation, the Society had received 18,997 valid responses - 850% more than predicted.

Following a government review in 2004, the Law Society began the process of establishing a clear separation between its regulatory and representational activities. A vital part of this process was to consult solicitors, and the Society engaged Etre to help maximise the number and quality of responses.

Etre put the questionnaire through three rounds of user testing between December 2005 and January 2006 as the design progressed from simple paper prototype to bare-bones interactive model, before eventually taking its final form.

Participants were recruited from all areas of the legal profession, from law students to senior partners at large city firms. This ensured the results reflected the diversity of the 116,000-strong membership.

After each round of testing, Etre used the feedback to improve the questionnaire's design and clarify the questions posed, minimising the barriers to comprehension and successful completion.

This iterative design-test-redesign approach saw major improvements at every stage. In the first round, only 10 per cent of users managed to complete the questionnaire. By round three, everyone completed it. The team also shaved four minutes off the average completion time without reducing the number or quality of questions.

The "Have Your Say" questionnaire launched on 18th January 2006 and was made available to Law Society members for three months, before closing on 21st April. Initial findings published on 15th May showed that 18,997 valid responses had been received - the largest ever response to a consultation in the Law Society's 182-year history.

Paul Schwartfeger, Managing Director of Etre, said "Members of the legal profession are extremely busy people. Many must account for their time in three-minute periods and work through their lunch hours to keep on top of their schedules. As a result, they have very little down-time available in which to pursue non-billable activities like completing questionnaires. This presented our team with a real challenge: To get legal professionals to participate, we had to make the questionnaire as quick and easy to complete as possible; while at the same time, ensuring that the Law Society received the detailed level of response it required for reorganisation. The fact that the questionnaire received an 850% increase in the number of respondents is truly incredible and provides a great demonstration of the benefits that organisations can achieve by following a user-centred design approach."

Kevin Martin, President of the Law Society, said "The results provide an excellent springboard to transform the Law Society. The Council is now developing the services that we will offer in future based on what solicitors have told us they want. We are listening. Such a high response to the consultation with such clear results gives us an excellent basis for change."

Matthew Fellowes, Web Editor at the Law Society, added "These results are impressive, and demonstrate once again how critical it is for any organisation to focus on the needs of the people who use its websites. Etre's expertise was valuable in ensuring we got to hear from the people whose views will determine our future success."

The Law Society is currently in the process of incorporating the findings of the consultation questionnaire as part of its extensive reorganisation programme.

About the Law Society of England and Wales

The Law Society of England and Wales represents 116,000 solicitors in England and Wales.

Website: http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/

About Etre

Etre is a London-based communications consultancy specialising in results-driven user experience design.

Etre works with multinational corporations, central government departments, local authorities and not-for-profit organisations. Recent clients include Anglo American, British Council, Eurostar, English Partnerships, Mencap, Ogilvy and Rolex.

Website: http://www.etre.com/

Published on: 12:00AM on 23rd January 2007