How much Will it cost?

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have recently confirmed that price publication rules for law firms may be revealed as soon as summer 2017.

Will-writing has been highlighted as an area of initial requirement, which may mean it will be among the first to be affected.

A request for greater transparency in the legal services market was made by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which the regulator have stated they will respond to quickly. According to the CMA, regulators as well as firms should do more to satisfy unmet demand for certain legal services.

Having recently published the results a 12-month study into the market, the CMA has stated that in three years time it will revisit the sector, in order to establish what kind of progress has been made.

Commenting on the proposed consultation was Crispin Passmore, who spoke today at the Westminster Legal Policy Forum. The executive director of policy at the SRA stated: “Price transparency will happen in the time the CMA put out [the update].

“We are not going to say all law firms must publish every price… You can discuss which areas it might be, evaluate it, work with behavioural scientists and develop it over a period of time.”

He went on to mention that initial requirements may involve prices being published for just three or four areas of work. This could include will writing and some family work.

At the forum, the concept of forcing firms to publish price information was met with scepticism.

Founder of Azarmi & Co, Sally Azmari expressed doubt in the proposal, stating that the idea was “simply not practical”.

Also feeling uncertain about the concepts’ practicality was Professor Cosmo Graham. The director of the Centre for Consumers and Essential Services at the University of Leicester voiced concern in relation to the capability of regulators, in being able to form a set of rules which would please the CMA.

“They are asking a bunch of regulators to work together – that is very difficult given the differences in scale,’ he said. ‘I am not sure the recommendations as put forward will make the difference. More information on its own doesn’t necessarily lead to better outcomes for consumers. It is the problem of choice overload which is particularly when you have complex problems and a lack of expertise.”

Lexoo chief executive, Daniel van Binsbergen, also queried the ideas, stating that forcing firms to embrace transparency was not an effective way to facilitate consumer awareness of legal costs.

Running on a platform based online, Lexoo provides clients with a choice of lawyers which they can choose from, based on price and reviews.

Highlighting the conditions needed for a shift in the market, Van Binsbergen stated: “It is not necessary to force lawyers to provide pricing up front as long as there is an environment which companies can operate and offer transparent services. As soon as clients get used to that level there will be a complete shift. I am in favour of the market solving that instead of lawyers coming up with very difficult [cost] grids.”

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