By Jo Dutton, Central Law Training
The growing accessibility of the internet has changed the way we live, including the way we make purchases. Comparing retailers for the best possible price is now second nature to many of us and in an age of information overload, we take it for granted that we will be able to find as much detail on a company’s website as we need (or think we need!) to make an informed choice before buying.
Linked in with this is transparency. Transparency is the latest buzzword and there is a general eagerness to be seen as being as transparent as possible to avoid any complaints or criticism, as well as empowering the consumer to make the best possible choice. There can be a tendency to put as much information out there as possible but this can lead to overkill and have the opposite effect to what is intended. It can either confuse consumers or result in them not reading any of the information at all! A balance is definitely required.
It is against this backdrop that the Solicitors Regulation Authority announced the new pricing regulations which come into force in December and apply to certain areas of legal work. Some have raised concerns, citing that the legal services market is somewhat different to, for example, purchasing car insurance. There are so many variables that may affect price so it is hard to always give a fixed fee. However, this is definitely the way of the world now and there is an expectation that information will be available. With this in mind, it does not seem unreasonable to request a law firm to provide the best possible information on price and complaints procedures and to make this available on their websites and in engagement letters. Many larger firms already do comply either fully or in part with the regulations and it is relatively common for example to find details of experience and qualifications of legal advisors on firms’ websites, etc.
Rather than a burden, the regulations could be seen as a good opportunity to review practices. Are complaints procedures easy to understand, even for vulnerable clients? Are caveats to pricing, clear? Yes, it may involve some additional work to become compliant, but as many potential clients will be taking a look at your firm’s website, wanting to get an idea of cost and who might be available to carry out the work they require, it makes sense to make this available.
The legal world can be quite a mystery to many clients so anything that puts them at their ease or provides them with enough information to make a reasonably well-informed choice or at least able to ask some sensible questions about cost, etc. is surely a good thing.
Central Law Training understands that these new rules will require many firms to update their websites and we are delighted to offer a detailed webinar to assist firms in complying with their obligations. Peter Scott, our expert presenter, offers practical help and ideas to implement before the imminent December date: https://www.clt.co.uk/webinar/Transparency-Rules-Update-Webinar-OnDemand/
From December 2018, the transparency rules will require all SRA regulated firms to publish pricing and other information for certain services they provide. This webinar will discuss what your obligations are under these rules and how best to comply with them. There is also discussion of what is not required and how you can still comply in those instances when you do not know the total cost of a service.