Despite the SRA Transparency Rules 2018 (‘the Rules’) coming into force in December 2018, the regulator has recently announced that following a review of 500 law firm websites, almost 20% made no effort to comply with these Rules.
The Rules require firms to publish price and service information in the areas of conveyancing (residential); probate (uncontested); motoring offences (summary offences); immigration (excluding asylum); employment tribunals (unfair/wrongful dismissal); debt recovery (up to £100,000) and licensing applications (business premises).
Price information must be presented in a clear and easy to understand format. A firm must also provide a total cost, if this is not possible provide an average or range of costs; explain the basis of charges, including any hourly rate or fixed fees; highlight likely disbursements, and their costs; be clear on whether VAT is included and, for conditional or damages-based fees, explain when clients may have to make payments.
For service information a firm must explain what services are included for the quoted price; highlight any services not included within the price, which a client may reasonably expect to be; include information on key stages and typical timescales of these and publish the qualifications and experience of anyone carrying out the work and of their supervisors.
Despite clear guidance issued to the profession, the recent review of firm websites by SRA found the following:
- From those firms that had live websites, they were either fully complying (25%) or partially complying (58%).
- 30% of the firms offering immigration services failed to comply in any way. This is a clear breach of the Rules.
- The most common areas of concern included a failure to display complaints information, not specifying the amount of VAT applied to costs or a failure to display information on key stages or likely timescales.
- Many firms were not providing a description or estimated costs of likely disbursements, and again not specifying where VAT applied.
The SRA has announced that they have given 78 firms who were not complying a two month grace period before regulatory action is considered. A further web sweep of firms is likely to be carried out later this year.
If you are in any doubt as to what you need to include on your website, Compliance Legal can assist. From the firms that have instructed us the most common themes emerging include a lack of time and understanding of the requirements, as well as issues encountered with individual website designers.
Compliance Legal can project manage your firms transparency requirements, and our web designing team will also review your site to ensure that it is compliant with the Rules. For firms who do not have a website our teams can design and delivery bespoke solutions to meet your requirements.
If you would like further assistance with this then please contact us today.