Why it's time to embrace price transparency

The SRA has revealed that in a random survey of 500 firms, 75% were only in partial compliance with the new price transparency rules. Dave Seager, managing director of SIFA Professional, explains why solicitors should view price transparency as a great opportunity to refresh their websites and attract new clients.

We are now over six months into the SRA’s new price transparency regime. From my conversations with the regulator, it seems as though not all law firms are fully embracingthe changes. Indeed, one just has to look at the findings of the first random SRA ‘web sweeps’, taking in 500 firms. The SRA Transparency Rules: Web sweep report shows that 75% of the firms selected were only partially complying with the rules; 17% were not actually not complying at all.

As an interested observer, I am struggling to understand this reticence, given why the SRA decided to introduce price transparency in the first place. Consumer research, initially by the Competition and Markets Authority and subsequently by the regulator itself, has made it quite clear that consumers are not approaching solicitors for legal services as much as they might be. Instead, they are opting for other providers, perhaps non-regulated ones, or even deciding on a DIY solution.

The consumer’s problem

The extensive research revealed that consumers want to be able to assess a number of legal services providers, and to narrow down the field, before instructing one. In a session at LegalEx 2018 in March, the SRA said that it had spoken to over 5,000 consumers, many of whom said that they found researching legal services very difficult. Only 15% of those surveyed were able to find a potential price for the legal service they wanted.

Unfortunately, a potential customer’s difficulties in finding the information they want on solicitors’ websites leads to mistrust and a perception that, if a law firm is not willing to show their prices, it is probably because it is worried the price might put people off. Another clear finding was that while consumers often appreciate fixed fee pricing, it should not be only about price – value and the comprehensive nature of the service are just as important.

Time to refresh

So, those law firms thriving in 2019 and beyond may well be those that embrace the new transparency rules and go above and beyond the SRA’s basic requirements. The more detail you can give on each service – and there’s no reason why this shouldn’t include all services you offer, not just the compulsory ones under the rules – the more reassurance you will give to the consumer. This should include:

  • the potential price
  • all stages of and possible timescales for the service
  • some background on the individuals in your firm who will deliver the service.

This last point is important. Biographies of your people, including their qualifications and experience, will give confidence to the consumer and help personalise the process for them.

Encourage the team to write content for your website, perhaps as a blog, to add to that personal approach. Share their content on social media networks to promote their expertise; it may help draw potential clients doing their research to your website.

While you’re expanding the content on your website, do not forget to add your firm’s quality kite marks, awards and, of course, customer testimonials. They are all a superb way of reassuring any potential client that they are in safe hands with you.

In essence, your website is your 21st century shop window – ensure you dress it well.

At SIFA Professional, we work with financial advisory firms that are keen to build partnerships with solicitors. We believe passionately in greater collaboration between the two professions for the mutual benefit of clients. Crispin Passmore, one of the driving forces beyond the modernisation of regulation at the SRA, once said to me: “Clients don’t think in silos, so why do we offer them solutions in silos?”.

So perhaps when you look to revamp your website, take the opportunity to highlight, where appropriate and in the best interests of your clients, that you can refer them to financial advisers when the legal work you have done gives rise to a need for complementary financial advice. Clients are keen to know that you are able to assist them to address and solve their problem. Pointing out that you work closely with other, non-legal professionals is reassuring and could be the key differentiator in your ‘shop window’.

Dave Seager is managing director of SIFA Professional, which provides business and marketing support to impartial independent financial advisers who work with solicitors. SIFA Professional is a partner of the Law Society. For more information, visit our Membership offers page.

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