Access to law firm prices has persuaded more consumers that solicitors are not as expensive as they first thought, new research suggests.

A survey of 3,539 recent users of legal services found that just 10% believed solicitors to be an unaffordable option after accessing published information on price. This was compared to half of consumers who had assumed before new transparency rules that solicitors were unaffordable.

The survey was commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authorority to mark a year since its transparency requirements were fully implemented. The regulator has always maintained the intention of the rules has not necessarily been to drive down prices but to make consumers better informed. This appears to clash with the Legal Services Board’s idea that price transparency would result in lower prices. Earlier this month, the oversight regulator reported that prices have risen despite efforts to increase competition.

The SRA research found two-thirds of respondents said they actively shopped around online when looking for legal support, while three-quarters believed mandated information being published had helped them make good choices.

The poll also found that consumers were not completely swayed by price: most held direct conversations with potential providers and 83% based their final decision on reputation, experience or recommendations.

‘We know that a lack of easy-to-find information about the services law firms offer and the cost of those services is part of the problem,’ said SRA chief executive Paul Philip. ‘So it is really encouraging to see that, although it is still early days, people and small businesses are looking at the information now available and finding it useful, particularly as they think about the type and costs of the service they need.’

Since December 2018, firms have had to publish price and service information on their websites about certain services such as conveyancing. Since last November they have also had to publish their complaints procedures and display the SRA clickable logo.

Further research found that 68% of firms are now publishing the required information on services and prices, with 90% saying they are displaying the logo. The SRA acknowledges that compliance has improved, but has also recently indicated it will take further action against those refusing to comply.

An online survey of 524 firms and 25 detailed interviews found 29% of providers would recommend publishing price and service information as being good for business. A similar proportion voluntarily publish prices on wider legal services not covered by the rules.

Law Society president David Greene today aid the level of consumer engagement with the pricing information available was encouraging but it also needs to be seen in the context of relatively recent measures which are still bedding in.

He added: 'The Law Society has always maintained that the cost of legal services is one aspect of a complex picture. It is therefore encouraging to see that in most cases, the final decision on who to instruct is ultimately based on experience, recommendations and reputation.

'We have also provided substantive assistance to the profession to support its compliance with the rules and broadly the profession has sought to comply. However, the Law Society recognises that there is still work to be done and our support for members will be reviewed to address any gaps or issues that have been identified.'