Before doing anything, might I suggest the Solicitors Regulation Authority looks up the career of Dick Fosbury.
Fosbury was the US sensation whose unprecedented – and often ridiculed – method for jumping over a bar brought him an Olympic gold medal in 1968.
Fosbury’s innovation was the key to success, allowing him to beat athletes stuck with old methods, before the sport quickly caught up with him.
Now imagine the Olympics organisers had insisted everyone do the ‘flop’ in 1968. Fosbury’s USP would no longer be unique and he loses his competitive edge – along with possibly his gold medal.
Now imagine a law firm attempts to be innovative and consumer-friendly by publishing its prices.
It’s a step that is entirely in-keeping with the mood music played by the Competition and Markets Authority and should, in theory, give it a head start on rivals more reticent about such transparency.
I have my reservations about the merits of publishing prices online, but I see the advantage to lawyers of trying it.
Now the SRA wants everyone to join in and is planning to make it compulsory – killing the innovation it seeks to engender.
If clients benefit from price publication, and clearly that is the thinking behind this, then the best firms will already be doing it.
What business is it of the SRA to mandate that all firms follow suit? Isn’t that fundamentally uncompetitive to the firms leading innovation?
I’ve put this point to Crispin Passmore, the SRA’s executive director for policy, who tells me firms need a ‘nudge’ to be more transparent.
No, they don’t. The market needs to be left alone by meddling regulators who exist to protect the public, not dictate how firms win clients. The market can decide: if the public want transparency (and most likely they do) then let them choose the firms really committed to it.
Don’t believe me? How about consulting the person who said this on innovation in November 2015: ‘We are not here to tell you how to innovate, or when you might need to. We are interested in what happens as a result.’
The quotes were from Passmore himself. He was right: the SRA should not tell people how to innovate. Fosbury was a pioneer: it wasn’t the authorities’ job to force his competitors to catch up.