Law firms face a tight turnaround to publish price and service information for consumers and small businesses, the Law Society of England and Wales has warned after the Solicitors Regulation Authority published guidance on regulations coming into force in December.
’Many firms that provide legal services to consumers and small businesses will be required to act quickly to comply with these new rules,’ Society president Christina Blacklaws said. Given the short time some firms have to cover a lot of ground – and the uncertainty surrounding what adjustments they may have to make for Brexit – we’d encourage the SRA to take a light approach to enforcement in the first months.’
The new rules will require firms to publish price and service information on their websites for the following areas of law:
- individual customers: residential conveyancing, probate, immigration (except asylum), road traffic offences, and employment tribunal claims (unfair/wrongful dismissal)
- business customers: employment tribunal claims (unfair/wrongful dismissal), debt recovery (up to £100,000), and licensing applications for business premises.
Firms will also be required to publish the total cost of services (or the average costs or range of costs), the basis of charges, services included in the price for key stages, any likely costs (and whether they include VAT) and the experience and qualifications of anyone carrying out the work.
Where a firm does not have a website, it must make price-related information available on request.
All firms, regardless of area of practice, must publish regulatory and complaint-related information on their websites.
’These new rules will provide opportunities as well as initial burdens,’ Blacklaws said. ’Clients are likely to change gradually the way they search for, assess and engage the services offered by solicitors’ firms.
’Having the right information at the right time will help clients make informed choices about how they solve their legal problems. They will be able to balance considerations, not just price but also other important factors such as service quality and client protections.’