Law firms making online boasts about their quality standards could be increasing their reputational risks if they cannot meet such levels. Tracy Vegro, executive director of strategy and innovation for the Solicitors Regulation Authority, said practitioners should beware making grand promises which are beyond their capabilities.
Firms are required to publish costs and service information on their websites and are increasingly embracing greater transparency about the quality standards that consumers can expect. But there are concerns about solicitors over-stating how much they can do and what areas they specialise in.
Speaking at the Law Society’s risk and compliance conference today, Vegro said: ‘If you are putting material on a website and talking about quality, and your firm is not living up to that quality, that is a risk you are taking.’
She said there had been issues in recent weeks with firms being the subject of negative reviews online and urged bosses to think carefully about their digital strategy.
The SRA says compliance with rules in place since the end of 2018 is starting to show signs of improvement. Policy manger Jackie Griffiths told the conference that 68% of firms say they are publishing the required information on price and service, compared with 18% who reported they were doing this when asked this two years ago. Griffiths stressed that sweeps of firm websites showed that the proportion of firms at least trying to meet requirements – albeit not succeeding fully – was much higher than 68%.
Surveys have also shown that more than a third of firms do not know what information they should be providing, and the SRA is considering what extra support is available.
The importance of comparison sites also appears to be growing. Griffiths added: ‘Consumers are still heavily reliant on personal recommendations [to find a lawyer] but there are signs of change and indicators that the pandemic is accelerating that.’
On wider risk issues, Vegro said it had been a ‘really worrying time’ for risk and compliance teams handling the threat of cyber crime during the pandemic. She revealed that attempted scams of law firms had trebled during lockdown.