SRA: Transparency Rules

Looking to the Future, Better information more choice

Imagine you have just found out that you have been appointed as the Executor for the estate of someone who has just died. You have looked into your duties and responsibilities and decided you might need some legal advice and help – how would you choose a solicitor? In the past, and to some extent now, many people start with their ‘family’ solicitor, or the solicitor who prepared the Will. Maybe you would ask a friend for a recommendation. You could also shop around a bit – look at a firm’s website, read about the solicitors’ skills and expertise and read reviews of the services they offer before making a decision.

For a lot of people, price will also be an important factor, but up until now, the only way you could find out that information is by ringing round. That will all change this December when the new Transparency Rules from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (the body which regulates Solicitors – SRA) come into effect.

To look at why these new Rules have come in, we have to go back to December 2016, and a legal services market study from the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA). It concluded that there was still a lack of transparency for consumers in the legal services market, especially in relation to price, quality and service. It felt this lack of transparency was putting consumers off.

Following this, the SRA published a consultation paper in June 2018 setting out a need for more transparency in certain areas of legal advice.

The SRA concluded that consumers should have the information they need to make informed choices about the purchase of legal services, allowing them to compare different providers and choose the one that best meets their needs.
As a result, new Transparency Rules have been introduced and will be in force from December – these rules will require firms to publish, on their website, price and service information for specified legal services. Probate services are one of these, and also:

  • residential conveyancing,
  • motoring offences,
  • employment tribunal,
  • licensing applications,
  • debt recovery and immigration (not including asylum).

The SRA have made it clear that this is only the beginning and encourage firms to publish service and price information for other areas as well.

What does this mean for you, the consumer?

Solicitors offering the services listed above will (from December) be required to publish cost information clearly and prominently on their websites, including;

  • the total cost of the service where possible, or if not the average cost or a range of costs – and whether this is based on an hourly charge, a fixed fee or another means (this is likely to be with reference to sample cases only – each case is unique and it will be difficult to give bespoke costs information without meeting the client);
  • the experience and qualifications of anyone carrying out the work, and of their supervisors;
  • a description of, and the cost of, any likely external fees which may need to be paid – for example in a Probate matter, the Court fee for the application for the Grant of Probate; and
  • details of what services are included in the price displayed, including the key stages of the matter and likely timescales for each stage, and details of any services that might reasonably be expected to be included in the price displayed but are not.

The SRA’s focus is on the impact to the consumer, rather than to the firm, and this will be a significant change to the way legal services have traditionally been marketed and sold.

As a consumer this is intended to give you more help so that your selection of a solicitor is more informed and you have a clearer idea of what to expect in terms of price and services including. For example, on a Probate matter you should expect to see the following:

  • estimate of cost for dealing with an administration;
  • what services are included; and
  • what additional services might be required at an additional cost and how these charges are calculated.

Else Solicitors acknowledge this is a new era for legal services and a massive game-changer for the industry. Else view this development as a great opportunity for transparency allowing professionals to promote specific services, specialist experience and competitive prices which set Else apart from competitors.

For more information relating to Wills & Probate please contact Kathryn Caple, Head of Private Client at Else Solicitors, by emailing or calling directly on 01283 526230.

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