Conscious Solutions: SRA mandate that law firms must display certain prices on their website
As you know, the SRA are close to issuing their final guidance on the new ‘pricing transparency’ mandate that the LSB have given them. Previous stories on this have been published by the Law Gazette and The Law Society, who have a guidance document you can download.
Put simply, if you advertise any one of the following seven areas of law impacted by the SRA ruling, you will need to display pricing on your website :-
- residential conveyancing
- probate (non-contentious)
- immigration (except asylum)
- road traffic offences
- employee and employer tribunal claims (unfair/wrongful dismissal)
- debt recovery (up to £100,000)
- licensing applications for business premises
Last week I had a call with with Jackie Griffiths, Policy Manager, SRA. Here are my call notes.
Law Firm Pricing Transparency
- guidance to be published by the end of September. Apparently it's ready, but going through SRA board approval
- they are going to MANDATE what law firms have to do
- pricing must be clear, accessible & prominent
- the firm must show either a) a fixed price, b) an average cost or c) a range of costs. The latter must be based on their experience of doing that kind of work
- this page, for example https://www.devonalds.co.uk/site/our-pricing/probate-pricing/ would not pass the 'clear' test as the Full Estate Administration does not meet the requirements of either a, b or c above
- if you ‘advertise’ a service i.e. have a page on your website talking about any of those seven areas of law, you will have to have price information. So that means that even Mishcon de Reya will need pricing information on https://www.mishcon.com/services/residential-property
- firms can have 'calculators' but must provide the price right there in the browser, no filling in a form and then being 'contacted' with the price
- the SRA are coming up with a template for typical questions you might ask in a conveyancing calculator
- the one thing I was told that I had not picked up from my reading was that ALL members of staff who do one of the seven areas of work, will need to be listed on the website along with their experience and credentials
- Jackie pushed the ALL staff bit i.e. not just partners or solicitors but any CILEX or paralegal level staff, everyone
- and the last point was that the 'complaints' page must make reference to the SRA, not just a link to LeO. She said more guidance was coming on that
- all firms will have to display a digital badge
- coming in by the end of the year, but she suggested a 'deadline' of April
- I asked her to look at the 'Secured by thawte' image at the bottom of https://www.stephensons.co.uk/
- Jackie said yes, theirs would be something like that i.e. embedded code that pulls from the SRA servers to guarantee the authenticity of the law firm and she said that they would ensure (technically) that it is ‘secure’ and that the code cannot just be copied to another website and used by a fraudster
- they will verify that the domain the code is placed on, is the approved one for the law firm
- if your firm has multiple websites then the badge will need to be displayed on each one
- I offered to help with our time and expertise if they need to help to minimise the impact on law firms
We have a number of clients that already publish some price information and are reviewing how they provide pricing information already, but also coming up with some ideas of our own. At the simplest level you can just put some text on each services page with pricing information.
The Psychology of Providing Prices on Websites
We’ve provided guide pricing on our website since we started the Conscious business 15 years ago. My gut feeling is that less than 50% of people ever check the page before contacting us. Now, we do not have it shouting out on our home page, but it is two clicks away under our main menu.
But, in a world where it is mandatory to show prices, one thing I believe is that firms who put transparent pricing front and centre will do better than those who bury it.
For example, someone searches for ‘conveyancing’. Your website is top in Google so they click through and right there at the top of the page is a ‘transparent pricing’ advert, button, panel. They look at your pricing and they are given some ‘certainty’. But if they do not know you, they probably go back to Google and look at the No.2 ranked site. They visit that site and there is no obvious pricing. Who do you think they will trust more?
So, over the next few weeks we will be putting together a document that lays out a number of options for what we think ‘works’. Much of the work a law firm will be able to do yourself via your website content management system, or, of course, if you want, we can take care of it for you.