In 2014 the SRA launched it's 'Looking to the Future' campaign and then in 2016, following the publication of the CMA's report on access to legal services, the SRA launched it's 'Question of Trust' Consultation, running question sessions with both the profession and the general public. Four years later, after engaging with 21,000 consumers and solicitors, the SRA has released the final details of the reforms which are due to come into force in December 2018.
“People with legal problems often struggle to find clear, understandable information to help them choose the right service. All the evidence shows that they do not necessarily want the cheapest provider, but they do find having information on price helps with their choices. Better information will not only help the public and small businesses, but also provide opportunities for firms to promote their individual offer and the extra customer protections you get using a regulated law firm. It is a win-win for everyone.”
-Paul Phillip, Chief Executive of the SRA
The SRA suggest that 85% of the individuals surveyed wanted more information readily available and this included price information. Over 57% believed that all legal services are regulated, which quite often is not the case. Less than 41% knew they could complain to the Legal Ombudsman. The research is available at https://sra.org.uk/sra/how-we-work/reports/better-information.page
The key changes will be: -
1. Regulated firms must publish price information for the following services-
- Public services – conveyancing, probate, motoring offences, employment tribunals (unfair/wrongful dismissal claims) and immigration matters (excluding asylum claims);
- Business services – debt recovery up to £100,000, employment tribunals (defending claims for unfair/wrongful dismissal claims) and licensing applications for business premises.
2. Costs information must include (rule 1.5)
(a) the total cost of the service or, where not practicable, the average cost or range of costs;
(b) the basis for your charges, including any hourly rates or fixed fees;
(c) the experience and qualifications of anyone carrying out the work, and of their supervisors;
(d) a description of, and the cost of, any likely disbursements, and where the actual cost of a disbursement is not known, the average cost or range of costs;
(e) whether any fees or disbursements attract VAT and if so the amount of VAT they attract;
(f) details of what services are included in the price displayed, including the key stages of the matter and likely timescales for each stage, and details of any services that might reasonably be expected to be included in the price displayed but are not; and
(g) if you use conditional fee or damages based agreements, the circumstances in which clients may have to make any payments themselves for your services (including from any damages).
3. Cost information published under this rule must be clear and accessible and in a prominent place on your website (rule 1.6)
4. Regulated firms will be required to display a digital 'regulated by' badge and publish information on how to complain to the Legal Ombudsman.
5. The SRA will create a new searchable register providing information on all solicitors/regulated firms including any regulatory matters.
The SRA have, however, conceded that firms will not be required to publish the details of tier 1 client complaints as without context complaint data could be difficult to understand. Failure to comply with these requirements may lead to enforcement action being taken but the SRA have not specified exactly how the information should be displayed.
“As long as the information is on the website then firms are complying with what we have asked.” – Crispin Passmore – SRA
More information on the proposals can be found at https://sra.org.uk/sra/policy/future/looking-future.page