SRA Warning On Transparency Rules
The SRA Transparency Rules have been in force since 2018 but many firms have struggled to get to grips with them and deliver, onto their websites, a fully compliant pricing structure.
In early 2019 and into early 2020 the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) began engaging with law firms highlighting issues with the transparency rules on their website and writing directly to them asking for their website to be updated.
Unfortunately, in the letters we have seen, the SRA were not forthcoming on where the shortfalls were, and some have pages that had attempted to meet the requirements.
With the latest announcement, as highlighted in the Law Society Gazette, the SRA has made it clear that they will start their engagement with firms that flout the rules, this will include firms that have attempted to get it right but have missed the mark. They also plan to do this quickly with an immediate approach being implemented with the warning that firms in breach will be referred to the disciplinary process.
We have interacted with and assisted firms that have been contacted by the SRA or simply required the confidence to know that their pages are correct. A simple, and free review will confirm whether your firm is compliant and if not, we can assist you in getting the correct content onto the appropriate section of your website. If you have not tackled the issue at all the time to act is now and we will work with you to create new pages for your website.
To assist firms in ensuring they get their fees transparency pages right the following guidance is provided: –
- Service Areas that require a fees transparency page are:
- Conveyancing (residential) (be sure to include sale, purchase, and re-mortgage – on both leasehold and freehold if different)
- Probate (uncontested)
- Motoring offences (summary offences)
- Immigration (excluding asylum)
- Employment tribunals (unfair/wrongful dismissal)
- Debt recovery (up to £100,000)
- Licensing applications (business premises)
- Provide the total cost for each service and if not possible a range of costs. Ensure that you state both the price net and gross of VAT.
- Make it clear what your hourly rates are and when they will apply.
- Detail obvious disbursement and their amounts and also include the price net and gross of VAT.
- Provide the details of the fee earners who will be dealing with the work in a particular category and their supervisors. Confirm their qualification and experience through a brief summary of expertise and experience.
- Where you offer conditional fees of Damages Based Agreement explain when a client will be required to make payment of costs.
- Detail the services that will be included in your fixed price or range of prices.
- Where possible highlight any obvious services that would not be invaded in the fixed pricing.
- Identify key stages of each matter and the expected time it will take for the matter to be resolved. Where possible provide a time scale for each stage.
Getting this right is essential. Not having the price information contained on your website (and other requirements) is a clear indication of a firm’s ability to comply and an enquiry about this may lead to a wider enquiry and more questions.
At The Strategic Partner, we work with firms on a range of risk and compliance matters providing essential support to firms and delivering for them a robust risk and compliance strategy that will include price transparency.
If you are generally comfortable with your compliance approach and just require help with price transparency, we will work with you on this specific task.
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