The Solicitors Regulation Authority will once again sweep law firm websites in a bid to drag more of them into compliance with transparency rules.
Since last December, firms offering certain services have been required to give details of price and the people who will be working on those services, while all firms must publish their complaints procedure. The information must be displayed in a prominent place on websites.
It was revealed today that a random sweep earlier this year of some 500 firms found that 17% had not even attempted to comply with the new requirements, while 58% had made some effort but failed to satisfy what the SRA wanted. Just a quarter were found to be fully compliant.
Richard Williams, a policy associate for the SRA, told its annual compliance conference in Birmingham today that a second sweep will be carried out before the end of the year to test if firms have got the message.
‘We have now contacted those firms that [were not fully compliant] and given them a timeframe to comply or pointed out what they may want to think about,’ said Williams. ‘The significant majority of those people contacted took steps very quickly to move into full compliance… this has the full gaze and full vision of the SRA at the moment.’
The regulator has previously suggested that firms that do not comply with, or openly flout, rules on price transparency could face disciplinary measures.
Next month, attempts to compel firms to be more transparent will crank up further, with the digital logo created by the SRA becoming compulsory for all firms with websites to display.
The logo was introduced as a voluntary tool last year, and around four in every 10 firms has added it to their website – meaning thousands of firms will need to act in the next four weeks to ensure they are complying.
The logo was criticised earlier this week by a solicitor who said its introduction was an ‘illegal gimmick’ that contravenes data protection law. Addressing the criticism directly, Williams said the SRA was comfortable that the digital badge is lawful and indeed will be of benefit to solicitors.
He said: ‘We do not store, collect, write to disc or do anything else that could make anyone using the logo identifiable… it collects information about anyone who hovers over or clicks on the logo, however that information is completely and utterly anonymised so it would be virtually impossible to identify anybody from that process.’