Better information on price and quality of service will help the public make better legal choices and law firms find new clients, according to proposals from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
The SRA wants to tackle the problem that it can be hard for people to find useful information on either price or quality of legal services. This makes it difficult to make good choices, and means some people do not access professional legal help when they need it. When they do, only around one in four people shop around for a law firm.
The SRA plans include a register bringing basic regulatory information on solicitors and law firms together in one place. It is proposing that law firms should publish information on prices and the services included. It is suggesting that firms would only do this for certain types of work, such as conveyancing, wills or personal injury work. It wants to hear the profession’s views on which areas would be the most appropriate.
The SRA is also considering publishing data collated by firms on the complaints they receive, while recognising that this would need appropriate context to be meaningful.
It also wants to introduce an “SRA regulated” and “SRA Compensation Fund” logo so that the public can see the extra protections they get when using a fully regulated firm. Solicitors working in businesses not regulated by a legal regulator would not be able to use these logos, but would need to provide information on the client protections they do have.
The SRA aims to not only benefit the public directly, but also indirectly by making information available to data re-publishers, such as comparison websites.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said the legal services market is not working well for the public or small businesses. The CMA recommended that better information is vital to create a more competitive market, where people can make more informed choices.
Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “Too often people with legal problems really struggle to find basic information. We want to make it easier for them to find the right service at the right price.
“In the last year, we have spoken to thousands of people and professionals to help us develop these plans. We have heard that price is important, but so is information about service and quality.
“We need to get the balance right. We do not want to impose unnecessary burdens on firm, or publish information that is unhelpful or too complex. Our approach could help support a more open, competitive market where people can make good choices and firms can grow and thrive.”
The SRA’s proposals have been drawn up over the last year in conversation with law firms, representative groups and members of the public. The consultation, available on the SRA’s website at www.sra.org.uk/consultations, is open until 20 December.