Riliance: SRA transparency rules

The new SRA Transparency Rules come into effect in December 2018, but what will this mean for you and your firm?

The SRA has said that the rules are aimed at improving competition in the legal market, it has also said:

“Our transparency reforms will ensure that members of the public and small businesses have the information they need about firms, the services they offer, the prices they charge and the protections they have in place”.

From December 2018, you will be required to publish a number of new things on your website, and if you don’t have one, to make the information available on request.

The following areas of work will be covered by the new publication requirements:

Individuals

  • Residential conveyancing
  • Probate
  • Immigration (excluding asylum applications & appeals)
  • Magistrates Court work (summary only road traffic offences dealt with at a single hearing)
  • Wrongful and unfair dismissal claims

Businesses

  • Defence of wrongful and unfair dismissal claims
  • Debt recovery (up to £100,000)
  • Licensing applications

So what do you need to publish?

  • Total cost of the service
  • Basis for charges
  • Experience and qualifications of fee earners/supervisors
  • Description of disbursements
  • VAT payable on fees and disbursements
  • Details of services included in the price displayed
  • Key stages and timescales in a matter
  • CFA/DBA costs that may be payable by a client (if applicable)

One of the interesting phrases used in relation to services included in the price displayed is:

Details of any services that might reasonably be expected to be included in the price displayed but are not.

By using such a phrase it appears the SRA is trying to stop firms from hiding costs, or quoting a competitive headline figure and then charging other costs later on.

To put this into some context, many conveyancing firms quote a headline price so they can compete with other local firms, and then add other costs elsewhere on the basis that clients/referrers will only look at the headline price when making decisions on which firm to instruct; clearly the days of doing this are numbered!

In addition to pricing, you will be required to publish:

  • Your complaints procedure
  • SRA number and SRA digital badge (websites)
  • SRA number and ‘Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority’ (letterhead/emails)
  • Solicitors working in non-SRA authorised firms will be required to publish details about their alternative insurance arrangements and the inability of clients to claim on the SRA Compensation Fund.

December is not far off, so you need to start thinking about how the rules will impact on you and your firm and take action to get your website, letterhead, and emails compliant.

It would not be unreasonable to assume that once the publication deadline has passed the SRA will start to visit firm websites to check on compliance with the new rules, so don’t delay in getting ready.

Riliance can provide you with training on the new rules and a toolkit to help you comply; if you would like more details please contact clientservices@riliance.co.uk or 01829 731200.  

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