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From December 2018 it will become mandatory for all law firms in England and Wales to publish prices for all probate and conveyancing services they offer the public, specifying exactly what these prices cover, according to plans announced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
After consulting with more than 21,000 members within the profession and the general public, the SRAs recent research suggests that 85 per cent of the public want information on price, protections, and quality of service, before choosing a legal services provider.
The SRA discovered that when people are searching for a firm, the most significant factor they are looking at is reputation, followed by price. A searchable register of all solicitors and regulated law firms is being developed, along with a digital ‘regulated by the SRA’ badge, which explains the protections available to customers from a firm’s regulated status.
In December 2016 the Competition and Markets Authority published a study illustrating competitive deficiencies in the legal services market in England and Wales. It demonstrated that only 1 in 6 legal service providers published their prices online. In April 2016, the Legal Services Board, told the SRA and eight other regulatory bodies, to produce action plans requiring law firms to publish more detailed information for consumers on practitioners’ prices. These plans appeared in July 2017 and private client practioners were left bemused by the decision to not regulate estate administration, power of attorney or trusts and did not take into consideration that the time needed for probate applications is not always predictable.
From December 2018, all regulated law firms will be required to publish information on prices they charge their clients for conveyancing, probate, motoring offences, employment tribunals and immigration (excluding asylum). There will be no specific rules on exactly where firms publish their price information as long as it is on their website, said SRA Policy Director Crispin Passmore.
The proposals are part of the SRA’s wider Looking to the Future reform programme, which will also ease the constraints on solicitors working freelance or outside the regulated sector. They must now be submitted to the Legal Services Board for approval. Subject to this, the changes are expected to be implemented on a phased basis from the end of 2018 onwards.
Partner, Neil Fraser said, “We take pride in being transparent about pricing and agree that clients are more likely to use a firm they can trust, hence reputation is extremely important. Although Fraser and Fraser is a probate research firm we have been pushing for regulation in this industry since 2007. This is why the Association of Probate Researchers (APR) was formed in June 2016 to bring regulation to the professional probate research industry. Having met strict criteria, APR has been approved as the recognised body for the Probate Research sector by the Professional Paralegal Register (PPR).”