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Legal Ombudsman Warns Firms to Be Clear On Pricing In Revised Guidance
November 16, 2023

1. Introduction: Legal Ombudsman highlights importance of transparency pricing information.

The Legal Ombudsman (LeO) has recently updated its guidance for lawyers, highlighting the importance of transparent communication regarding ongoing costs. The renewed focus is in response to a significant number of recent complaints related to lawyers’ bills, with clients being dissatisfied with how costs were communicated to them. The guidance reiterates the unchanged position that clients should never be ‘surprised’ by their bills and introduces additional details on the Legal Ombudsman’s view of good costs service. It emphasises the significance of providing clear and quality cost information, especially considering the stressful nature of many legal situations. Below are the core principles that the LeO expects lawyers to take into consideration:

A client should never be surprised by the bill they receive from their lawyer; 

If you intend – now or in the future – to charge your client for something, tell the client clearly, as soon as you reasonably can; and

Keep clear and accurate records of all the cost information you provide, including any confirmation from the client that they understand what they will be charged.”

Law firms are reminded that the Legal Ombudsman may request evidence of such communication in case of complaints.

For more details, you can access the revised guidance from the Legal Ombudsman here.

 2. SRA’s approach to transparency rule breaches.

Law firms should also be mindful of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) commitment to enforcing transparency rules. Only 42% of firms claimed to publish all the required information, according to a Year Three evaluation conducted by independent consultancy Economic Insight Limited. Our previous article, Firms Still Failing to Meet Transparency Requirements, provides more details on the challenges of meeting transparency requirements.

As the SRA and the Legal Ombudsman continue to scrutinise firms and encourage improvement, firms must address compliance gaps to avoid penalties and sanctions.

 3. Help with your Client Care Documents.

Documented processes can quickly become out of date, especially when using template documents that do not reflect the reality of the firm’s internal workings. Adopting standard template documents can inadvertently change how the firm operates in practice and result in a mismatch between the written documents and the reality. A firm can protect itself by ensuring documentation is bespoke to them and reflects what they do in practice.

If it has been a while since you have reviewed your client care documents, including terms and conditions, The Strategic Partner has a fixed-price solution for drafting client care packs. Our client care solution provides one letter across all departments and avoids firms having multiple letters for different departments and matter types, which can prove difficult to track and maintain.

4. Compliant management solutions.

The Strategic Partner Complaint Management Service provides firms with an effective outsourcing solution that enables complaints to be addressed quickly, with impartiality and resolved effectively.

Using an outsourced solution for complaint management still keeps the firm in control but also delivers an independent perspective that can assist in more effectively resolving complaints and prevent them from escalating to the Legal Ombudsman or the SRA.

Our complaint managers understand law firms and the services they offer and will quickly get to the core issues and guide and advise the firm on the most effective remedy.

We will advise and guide the firm on resolving the complaint without causing further escalation and what action the firm should take if needed. We will work in tandem with the firm, ensuring the firm is protected at all times and taking action that is both justified and proportionate.

The Complaint Management Service is designed to provide firms with an expert solution that operates impartially and independently but always in the firm’s and its clients’ best interests. Our service covers the initial intimation of a complaint, the investigation and liaison with the client through to the final resolution, including:

  • Implementing a complaint policy, including guidance to staff on actions to take when receiving a complaint and reporting requirements
  • Maintenance of a complaint register
  • Management of the complaint register
  • Handling and management of complaints, either directly from the client or via the Legal Ombudsman
  • Training provided to staff on complaint avoidance
  • Training provided to managers on complaint management
  • Reporting on complaints as part of the firm’s compliance structure

Our Complaint Management Service provides firms with an alternative solution to the need to respond to, manage and control complaints internally, freeing up the Complaints Partner whilst still maintaining control, and ensures there is an impartial approach that minimises impact on the firm.

5. How Confident Are You About Compliance?

At The Strategic Partner, we aim to empower firms to effectively manage risk, compliance, and regulation, allowing them to focus on delivering exceptional service to their clients.

Our services are designed to provide firms and their employees with the comfort of knowing that even in the busiest of times, you remain compliant and can evidence that you are.

We can offer expert guidance and support, including:

  • Risk Management and Compliance Review – A review of the firm’s approach to regulation and compliance to include all regulatory requirements and AML procedures. The output of this provides the firm with a written gap analysis and solutions to remedy any issues.
  • Risk Assessment Service and Independent AML Audit– A review of the firm’s approach to regulation and compliance to include all regulatory requirements and AML procedures. The output of this provides the firm with a written gap analysis and solutions to remedy any issues.
  • Regulation 21 AML 2017 Independent Audit– An audit that reviews the firm’s approach to regulation and compliance, including AML procedures, and meets the requirements of Regulation 21 of the AML 2017. The output will provide the firm with a written gap analysis and solutions to remedy any issues discovered and ensure compliance.
  • Training and Education– We offer customised training programs to educate your staff on AML regulations, source of funds and source of wealth enquiries, risk assessment, and suspicious activity detection. Our training ensures that your team has the knowledge and skills to fulfil their compliance responsibilities.
  • Auditing– Procedural staff, systems, and files to ensure the procedures are up to the required standard and being implemented at case level with a report of the outcome.
  • Expert Process and Procedures DraftingThe Strategic Partner provides quality and bespoke document drafting in consultation with the firm and can incorporate a range of document drafting services, alongside Client Care documents, our teams can help with more complex series of documents, such as Risk and Compliance and Anti-Money Laundering.
  • Ongoing Compliance Support– Our experts provide ongoing support and guidance, keeping you up-to-date with the latest AML regulations and best practices. We offer regular compliance reviews, advice on complex cases, and assistance with regulatory reporting requirements.

Packaged Solutions – Implementation of robust solutions to ensure the firm achieves compliance and then maintains compliance through the provision of ongoing support and assistance:

Get in Touch With Our Compliance Team

We would be pleased to discuss your current approach to regulation and compliance and how our services will assist you in ensuring your firm is protected. Contact our team today at 0203 911 9710, email us at info@thestrategicpartner.co.uk or make an online enquiry here to request your transparency fee rules review.

Contact our team today at 0203 911 9710, email us at info@thestrategicpartner.co.uk or make an online enquiry here to request your transparency fee rules review.

View and download the PDF version of this article here.

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