Transparency rules: Would your firm pass an SRA sweep on your website?

4 months on from the transparency rules coming into effect on 6th December 2018, we caught up with Richard Williams, Policy Associate from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) at LegalEx 2019 to hear the latest. 

The new digital badge helps firms differentiate themselves from unregulated service providers

Did you know? 40% of firms regulated by the SRA are already displaying the new digital badge to differentiate themselves from unregulated legal services providers. For those embracing the transparency rules and the badge, ahead of the changes being mandatory from 25th November 2019, they are already benefitting from:

• Managing client cost expectations from day one and reducing the risk of price-related complaints further into the transaction. 

• Market differentiation and attracting new clients, as more people use legal services and shop around. 

• Sending a clear message of adhering to market standards and regulatory protections, helping them to win new business and give their clients peace of mind – as 80% of consumers said they were more likely to go with a firm with a badge on their website. 

Firms are falling short on complaints and VAT on disbursements

However, there are still some challenges to overcome. Whilst many firms are already displaying pricing information, Richard noted some are falling down on providing details around disbursements and VAT, as well as clearly displaying complaints procedure information, including:

• The firm’s complaints handling process

• Details about how to complain to the SRA

• Information about how to complain to the Legal Ombudsman

You can find more information about adding complaints procedure information to your website here.  

What happens next? 

As the official deadline of 25th November looms closer, the SRA will continue to keep a close eye on the uptake of the new rules. They will be carrying out web sweeps to see how information is displayed – including an impending random sweep of 500 firms. Could your firm be one of them?

The SRA will also be speaking with firms to see how they are adapting to the changes, as well as engaging with consumers to raise awareness of what they should now expect to see on a firm’s website. This extends to following up on any consumer complaints and discussing with the relevant firm where they might need to make some improvements.  

The SRA will also be finalising their new Digital Register, expected to be launched in late November in line with the official deadline, bringing firm information together into one consumer-friendly place, where they will be able to validate their choices. Richard noted that this will not be a price comparison tool.  

Why were the transparency rules created?

The transparency rules were created to give the general public better access to legal services and information, after a survey of over 5,000 people revealed that only 15% were able to find the price information they needed.

The new rules were also driven by research into consumer behaviour and a growing appetite to shop around for legal services, as it was found that 71% of people spend more than an hour researching their options and 66% consider more than one provider.

Why is lack of information such a big issue to address? 

In the absence of pricing information, individuals assume that legal services are unaffordable – with a perception that they are 25% more expensive than they actually are. It’s a serious barrier to people getting the legal help they need and can also have a knock-on effect on the volume of work coming into the industry. Fortunately, the new rules are already bringing positive change.

Where can I find more information?

If you would like to find out more about being compliant with the new rules, you can watch Richard Williams’ presentation – recorded live at LegalEx – on the SRA YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLOxK9B_lYY 

More information and guidance can also be found on the dedicated ‘transparency’ section of the SRA website: https://sra.org.uk/transparency/