There has been much in the legal press recently regarding the Competition and Markets Authority’s drive for pricing transparency. Both the Law Society and Bar Council have responded (19 August and 13 September respectively).
Solicitors have always been required to give clients an estimate of the likely costs to be incurred at the outset of any case. In my many years in practice, undertaking litigation and any number of cases from a multi-office high street practice, clients from whatever walk of life will ask for an idea of charges before deciding to ‘sign on the dotted line’ in entering a retainer.
It has always been open to clients to shop around. Indeed, at the bar, clients have the buffer, save in direct access cases, of their solicitors providing guidance on the right barrister at the right price.
In these days of costs management and budgeting, certainly in litigation, it has become part of the daily role of barristers’ clerks to estimate fees up to trial.
I ask myself, what more transparency is needed? The CMA’s recommendations do not, as far as I see it, arise because of a tangible problem and, god forbid, we should open the way for ‘comparethelawyer.com’.
Richard Allen, costs lawyer and senior consultant, Burcher Jennings, London EC4