Com­pare your lawyer as firms to pub­lish clear prices on­line

The Daily Telegraph - Your Money - - MONEY - Sam Mead­ows

Com­par­ing prices for le­gal ser­vices will be­come eas­ier next week, thanks to the in­tro­duc­tion of new rules by the so­lic­i­tors’ reg­u­la­tor.

The reg­u­la­tions will force so­lic­i­tors to dis­play prices promi­nently for ser­vices such as con­veyanc­ing, pro­bate and mo­tor­ing of­fences on their web­sites. Firms will also have to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about the ex­pe­ri­ence of their staff.

The changes could make le­gal ser­vices cheaper, although ex­perts warned against sac­ri­fic­ing qual­ity for a low price or tak­ing the on­line il­lus­tra­tion as a de­fin­i­tive quote.

As many as nine in 10 peo­ple in need of le­gal ser­vices do not ap­proach lawyers as they think it will be more ex­pen­sive than it is, ac­cord­ing to the So­lic­i­tors Reg­u­la­tion Author­ity (SRA).

A spokesman said: “Our re­search sug­gests that peo­ple think law firms’ prices are up to 20pc higher than is re­ally the case, so even if prices stay the same this sug­gests that pub­lish­ing prices may lead to many peo­ple re­al­is­ing they can af­ford pro­fes­sional le­gal sup­port.”

Max Winthrop, a spe­cial­ist in em­ploy­ment dis­putes at Short, Richard­son & Forth, wel­comed the rules, but said the fi­nal price would still need to be de­ter­mined by the in­di­vid­ual cir­cum­stances. In em­ploy­ment cases, he said, firms will dis­play the fee for a one-day tri­bunal but, if a case in­volves dis­crim­i­na­tion, for ex­am­ple, it could be much longer and more ex­pen­sive.

Reg­u­la­tions al­ready re­quire so­lic­i­tors to give an idea of what their even­tual costs could be, tak­ing into ac­count any com­plex­i­ties, but the on­line price will not be able to re­flect any per­sonal cir­cum­stances.

Ian Bond, a pro­bate spe­cial­ist at Tal­bots Law, also warned of com­plex­i­ties. The given price for will-writ­ing and pro­bate could in­crease if a lot of time passes be­fore the es­tate is ad­min­is­tered.

Mr Winthrop also noted that a spe­cial­ist on a higher hourly fee could prove cheaper in prac­tice. “An hourly rate is only one part of the story,” he said. “If I charge £250 an hour but, as a spe­cial­ist, take only 30 min­utes to do some­thing, that will be cheaper than a gen­er­al­ist who charges £170 an hour but takes three hours to do it.”

The SRA is also pro­duc­ing a new “badge” that will clearly show whether a firm is reg­u­lated.

Christina Black­laws, pres­i­dent of the Law So­ci­ety, the trade body, pointed out that cases could be­come more com­plex as they pro­gressed and con­sumers would need to make de­ci­sions based on a num­ber of con­sid­er­a­tions.

“Price is, of course, im­por­tant, but so are the range and qual­ity of ser­vices and the client pro­tec­tions of­fered by the provider,” she said.

The rules will come into force on Fri­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.