We have responded to the recommendations of the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) for legal services, setting out how we are progressing reforms to make the market more open and competitive.
In December, the CMA concluded that the legal services market was not working well for the public and small businesses. It endorsed many of our proposed reforms. This included making better information available to help the public choose legal services, and removing anti-competitive restrictions on where solicitors can work.
We have confirmed we will free up solicitors to work outside LSA-regulated firms. This will make it easier for people to benefit from solicitors’ expertise and high standards, potentially in more affordable ways.
We set out initial views on improving information for the public last October.
We have now developed our thinking in this area, particularly in response to the CMA’s recommendation that regulators mandate firms to publish price information.We have recognised the complexity of doing this, especially as legal services are not a simple product. Yet we agree that the lack of information on prices makes choices difficult, and stops people accessing legal services. Six out of ten people do not believe professional legal advice is an affordable option.
So that we fully understand the best way to share information, we plan to trial a straightforward approach to firms publishing prices in a few areas of the law, such as conveyancing. We will then assess the benefits to consumers, as well as the impact on firms.
We also recognise that to make effective choices, the public wants to assess quality as well as the extent of protections in place. We are considering the development of ‘regulated by the SRA’ and ‘protected by the Compensation Fund’ logos.
We will test options to see if these can help inform consumers about the extra protections in place for those using regulated law firms. We are due to formally consult on better information for consumers later this year.
In our response, we also agree with the CMA view that legal regulators should be independent of both representation and Government. This would boost public trust in the legal sector.
Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “The CMA was absolutely right that changes were needed if we were to tackle unmet need and support people and small businesses accessing legal services. They strongly endorsed our programme of reform. We are working closely with the whole sector to make sure we can deliver changes to the benefit of everyone.
“In considering how we publish price information, we need to continue having in-depth conversations with everyone, from law firms to consumer groups, to get this right. We want to make sure we strike a balance between making sure consumers have access to consistent, useful price information, while not over-burdening firms with over-restrictive rules.”
Our response can be found here: