In 2017, the Legal Services Consumer Panel found that just over one in four potential clients compares legal service providers online. As well as information about expertise and legal qualifications, clients want as much clarity as possible about fees – how much the service they need will cost and exactly what that cost covers (and what it doesn’t). This helps them make informed decisions about the options available.
Publishing clear, concise information about your prices will make this process easier for potential clients, but there are some things you need to consider.
What level of detail is appropriate?
Depending on the services you’re offering and your pricing structure, you might need to consider what level of detail to publicise. If you have a wide range of fees, you could publish your standard package fee but you should make sure you explain clearly that costs may vary depending on the client’s situation, and that you offer a more accurate estimate on contact.
Be clear about what you offer
It's important that the information you publish about your services and pricing is not potentially misleading or unclear. Here are the key things to consider:
- Details of your firm’s charges and services must be clearly written and state whether they include disbursements and VAT (bear in mind that legal terms such as ‘disbursement’ might be unfamiliar to non-legal readers)
- Offers of discounts should include details of the normal rates that the discount applies to
- You should not publicise a service as ‘free’ if the offer is conditional on something else, such as receiving further work
- You must keep your information up to date.
Publicising pro bono work
If you advertise work as pro bono, the client must not be charged for anything (except where a conditional fee agreement is used and the only charges billed are paid to your firm from the client's opponent or other third party, and which are paid to a charity under a fee-sharing agreement).
What to avoid
When it comes to promoting your services, there are some things in particular you should keep an eye out for. These include:
- misleading or inaccurate information
- estimating charges at an unrealistically low level
- not making it clear when an estimated or fixed fee might have additional charges
- describing overheads - normal postage, telephone calls, etc - as disbursements
- advertising additional 'sundries' or 'catch all' amounts without explaining their purpose.
These last points might seem obvious, but they’re part of the SRA Code of Conduct so they’re vital to get right. Misleading cost information and overcharging has led to firms facing significant fines by the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal.
You can read more on the regulatory requirements of publishing fees in our practice note Publicising solicitors’ charges.
Publicising the benefits of using a solicitor
As well as costs and fees, explaining the benefits clients get from using a solicitor - such as a duty to act in their best interests and professional indemnity insurance protection - can also help them make informed decisions. This information is useful for comparing your services with those of other types of providers and can help potential clients judge your value.
For more information, see the Law Society's price and service transparency toolkit.