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Price and service transparency - how you can comply

8 August 2019

This guide will give you an overview of price and service transparency. You should read it alongside our practice note on price and service transparency, which gives our view of good practice in this area.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) introduced new Transparency Rules on 6 December 2018. These were introduced to help potential clients make informed decisions about legal services.

The rules affect all regulated law firms and sole practitioners. All firms are required to publish information about complaints and display the SRA's digital badge.

All firms that publicise their services for certain areas of law must also publish information about:

  • prices
  • services

The information should be:

  • in plain English so that prospective clients can understand it easily
  • accessible
  • in a prominent place on the firm’s website

If your firm does not have a website, you must make the information available on request (for example, in a brochure or leaflet).

The SRA has started to carry out spot checks to enforce the Transparency Rules.

Complaints

 
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All firms, regardless of area of practice, need to publish details of their complaints procedure on their website.

This must include information about how and when a client can complain to the Legal Ombudsman and the SRA.

If your firm does not have a website, you must provide the information on request.

The SRA has suggested some text you can use in its Ethics guidance: Publishing complaints procedure.

SRA badge

 
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All firms, regardless of area of practice, must display the SRA’s digital badge.

The digital badge is a key way for firms to show they’re regulated by the SRA. The badge is intended to give consumers confidence when they buy services from a regulated firm.

The digital badge is available for you to use now. Displaying the badge will become mandatory from 25 November 2019.

Find more information about complaints and the SRA badge in chapter 4.2 of our practice note on price and service transparency.

Services covered by the Transparency Rules

 
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The Transparency Rules apply to firms that provide the following services:

For individuals

  • Residential conveyancing
  • Probate
  • Immigration (except asylum)
  • Road traffic offences (summary only)
  • Employment tribunal claims (unfair or wrongful dismissal)

For businesses

  • Employment tribunal claims (unfair or wrongful dismissal)
  • Debt recovery (up to £100,000)
  • Licensing applications for business premises
 

Price transparency

 
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The Transparency Rules aim to help prospective clients understand how much their case is likely to cost before they contact you or pay you a retainer.

The rules do not affect how much you can charge for your services. They do not specify which charging model to use. You just need to make sure the cost is clear to clients.

You must include the total cost of the service or, where that is not possible, the average cost or range of costs. These costs should state whether VAT is included. If it is, you should state the amount of VAT that applies.

When you do this, you should make clear what assumptions you’ve made about the matter.

You must also include the basis for your charges, including any hourly rates or fixed fees.

You must include a description of any likely disbursements and how much they’ll cost. You must also make clear whether VAT must be paid on the disbursements and, if so, the amount of VAT.

If you use conditional fee or damages-based agreements, you must publish the circumstances in which clients themselves have to pay for your services. This includes any payments they may have to make from any damages they receive.

Example: assumptions

The price information below is a general indication of costs based on our experience.

We estimate a fixed fee cost is likely to range between £1,750 and £2,500 plus VAT and disbursements* for a straightforward grant of probate and administration of an estate, for estates in England and Wales, where:

  • there is no more than one property in the sole name of the deceased
  • there are no more than three bank accounts
  • there are no debts (other than utility bills)
  • there is a valid will appointing executors
  • there is a single beneficiary
  • there are no complications

*Disbursements (costs related to your matter that are payable to third parties)

ItemAmountVAT
Probate fee*£155none
Office copies for the grant of probate (per copy)£0.50none
Post in the local paper£185none
Post in the London Gazette£62.15none

*Please note that the government has issued proposals to increase fees in the future. We will attempt to make the application for the grant before the fee changes but due to the nature of the process and reliance on third parties this may not be possible.

Please contact us so that we can provide you with an individual quote based on your specific circumstances.

You should also list any factors that could increase overall costs.

Example: additional costs

The following factors are likely to increase the cost of your matter:

  • not having all of the paperwork available, or having missing or incorrect information that needs investigation and correction
  • third parties not responding to our communications promptly
  • dealing with unusual or complex assets or items (for example fine art, timeshares, shares in private companies etc)

As soon as any complications arise we will discuss these with you and agree the fee for the additional work being carried out in advance of any additional work being undertaken.

You should make clear that every case is different and encourage people to contact you for an estimate for their individual case.

Example: contact us

Obtaining a grant of representation and dealing with the administration of an estate can be complicated; it can take several months to make sure everything is done properly. At [firm name] we offer a complete estate administration service to deal with everything for you.

Every estate is different, which is why we encourage you to contact us so we can provide you with an estimate outlining a range of potential fees to make sure that you get the right amount of support to meet your individual circumstances. We will update you regularly on your costs throughout the matter so you can stay in control throughout.

Find more detailed advice in our practice note on price and service transparency.

The SRA’s ethics guidance has useful templates for pricing models.

It’s important to review the information you provide about price transparency regularly, so that it does not go out of date.

Service transparency

 
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You must publish the services included in the prices you list, including the key stages of the matter and likely timescales.

You must publish the details of any services that are not included in the price shown, if a prospective client might have reasonably expected them to be included.

Example: service transparency

The process

The process is likely to take between two to four months from preparation of sponsorship licence to Tier 2 work permission granted to employee (exceptions apply, especially in view of the restricted certificate of sponsorship process).

Steps in the process Services we provide
1. Instruct one of our immigration solicitorsWe will take information from you (instructions) on the level of support you need in using the Tier 2 sponsorship process. We will provide an estimate of the work we consider will be required.
If you accept the estimate we will provide you with an engagement letter with details regarding our terms and conditions.
Once we have your signed version of the engagement letter we will send you a checklist of the documentation that is needed for the immediate sponsorship steps you wish to take.
2. FinancingYou will need to arrange cover for the full costs of the Home Office fees, as well as our estimated legal fees and outlined expenses.
We will generally ask for at least half of our estimated fees upfront before we start work on your case. These fees will be held on trust for you, in our client bank account.
3. Legal workYou will provide evidence we request in a scanned format, which will be uploaded on a mutually agreed web server.
We will prepare necessary information and evidence to support you during the various stages of the sponsorship process, including the submission of applications and sponsorship certificate requests.
4. Responding to enquiriesWe will work with you to respond to any requests from the Home Office for further evidence or information (which will be charged separately).
5. The decisionIf the application/certificate request is approved we will advise you of the follow up steps to complete the sponsorship process, up to the point where the sponsored worker commences working.
If the Home Office refuses you at any point during the sponsorship process, we will outline the remedies available, including re-applying and lodging administrative or judicial reviews.

It’s important to review the information you provide about service transparency regularly, so that it does not go out of date.

Staff biographies

You must include information about the experience and qualifications of staff carrying out the work, and their supervisors.

You do not have to name a specific person who’ll work on the matter. It’s enough to give general information about fee-earning staff.

Example: staff biographies

Our conveyancing team is made up of chartered legal executives* (with one to three years’ experience) and qualified solicitors (with at least four years’ experience). The team is supervised by [partner name] who has over 15 years’ experience working in residential conveyancing and qualified as a solicitor in 2002.

*A chartered legal executive is a regulated legal professional who specialises in a particular area of law, often working alongside solicitors.

If you already have a biographies section on your website that provides team information, you do not have to include this detail on the same page as your prices.

Providing additional information

The new rules are minimum requirements. You might want to publish more information to show prospective clients the value you can bring and how you’re different from your competitors. For example, you could include:

  • customer reviews/testimonials
  • membership of professional bodies

You’ll find more detailed advice on service transparency and staff biographies, plus examples of additional information you could provide, in chapter 6.4 of our practice note on price and service transparency.

Resources

 
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Price and service transparency practice note

SRA guidance on price transparency

SRA ethics guidance – useful templates for service and pricing models, and sample wording for staff biographies

The Legal Ombudsman’s view of good costs service – a guide to help lawyers prevent complaints about costs

Engaging clients – how to make sure new clients have the information they need to make informed decisions about your services

Webinars

Pricing transparency: more than just publishing prices

Price transparency for conveyancers

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