Comparing the price of legal services can really benefit consumers
The Legal Service Board today publishes its second prices of individual consumer legal services research report.
The clear message that it delivers is that you can easily pay more than you might need to for a legal service unless you compare prices.
This report provides an analysis of a recently conducted survey of prices quoted for commonly used legal services: a) conveyancing; b) family; and c) wills, trusts and probate.
Neil Buckley, Chief Executive of the Legal Services Board said:
“This important research helps us understand more about what individual consumers are likely to pay for certain commonly used legal services. The findings help us understand changes in prices over time and provide insights into the extent of competition between providers, as well as affordability and access to justice for consumers.
Previous research has shown that price is a key factor in determining whether or not individual consumers opt to use legal services and, if they do, which ones they choose. This research however demonstrates the need for more price transparency in the legal services market. This is why the current consultations by the legal regulators on how to achieve more and better information are so important.”
The key findings from the 2017 survey of prices are:
- Fixed fees are cheaper than other forms of charging in all three market segments
- Firms based in the South East are on average a third more expensive than those based elsewhere
- Shopping around really pays. Savings to consumers range from 17% to over 400% of average weekly income (between £80 and over £2,000) comparing the lower and upper quartile quoted prices
- There appears to be a relationship between prices and regulation. For example in conveyancing, the average prices quoted by licensed conveyancers are lower than those quoted by solicitors
- There has been no change in the proportion of firms displaying prices on their website between 2015 and 2017 (18%), pointing to a continued lack of information not enabling consumers to easily shop around. Only a relatively small number of providers currently plan to change this practice by displaying prices on their websites in future
- For those firms which reported increasing their prices in the 2017 survey, 29% cited an increase in the cost of overheads or staff as the main reason, and 26% stated they were responding to increases in other providers’ prices, andFirm based differences, not captured in the survey, appear to account for a large part of the differences in prices quoted. Differences in methods of service delivery do not appear to be key factors in explaining price differences.
A number of infographic diagrams have been produced to illustrate the key findings in each of the three areas:
- The prices of individual consumer legal services 2017 research report can be found here.
- This report presents the findings of our analysis of a survey of prices quoted by 1,491 firms for fifteen different scenarios across the three market segments of a) conveyancing; b) family; and c) wills, trusts and probate.
- To allow analysis of changes over time, the 2017 survey is compared to the 2015 survey using the Retail Price Index to inflate the prices in the 2015 survey to ensure we only focus on real changes in price.
- The first prices of individual consumer legal services research report was undertaken between November 2015 and January 2016 and was published in spring 2016. It can be found here.
- The CMA’s final report and recommendations and further information about the process can be found here.
- The LSB’s initial response, and subsequent comments, to the CMA regarding this study can be found here.
- The Legal Services Act 2007 (the Act) created the LSB as a new regulator with responsibility for overseeing the regulation of legal services in England and Wales. The new regulatory regime became active on 1 January 2010.
- The LSB oversees nine approved regulators, which in turn regulate individual legal practitioners. The approved regulators, designated under Part 1 of Schedule 4 of the 2007 Act, are the Law Society, the General Council of the Bar, the Master of the Faculties, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys, the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys and the Association of Costs Lawyers. They have subsequently being joined as an approved regulator by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.In addition, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants are listed as approved regulators in relation only to reserved probate activities.
- As at 1 April 2017, the legal profession in England and Wales comprised 148,690 solicitors, 15,281 barristers, 6,809 chartered legal executives and 5,958 other individuals operating in other areas of the legal profession such as conveyancing. The UK legal sector turnover was £31 billion per annum (2016) which is up 19% in cash terms since 2012. For more information see here.