Publishing your fees ...... the clock is ticking...........
December 6th 2018 – the deadline. That’s right, that’s the date that SRA regulated legal firms will have to have their fee information published on their websites (or in alternative format easily available if they don’t have a website). This article is a reminder of what firms need to do for that:
- Identify which services the firm provides that fall under the requirements – not every category of law is required, for example family/matrimonial law fees do not need to be published (although it would be a good idea for firms to start to consider this, it is a very likely target for the SRA in the future…)
- Decide on how the firm will display its fees. Will this be fixed fee, fixed fee with variable fees for added complexity, sliding scale of fees. This may well differ by category of law.
- Decide what is included in the fee and what isn’t and be as specific as possible for this to avoid any ambiguity from the potential client’s perspective.
- Where disbursements are known, ensure that fees for them are quoted. For such items as Stamp Duty Land Tax or Welsh Land Duty provide links to the relevant sites where the tax can be calculated by the potential client entering the property value.
- Provide an explanation of the stages involved in any of the services, again provide as much detail as possible. Where possible, avoid the use of jargon that might confuse the potential client.
- Make sure that there is an estimated timescale for the work involved. As it isn’t possible to know what that looks like prior to accepting the matter, use a range based on averages for the work.
- Provide information on those fee earners who will be providing the relevant service. If you already have a website, this information may be available already so you can link to it, just make sure first that the existing information contains everything that the SRA require you to publish about the fee earners
- Provide your complaints information. This is a slightly different requirement to what is currently in most firm’s client care letters, as it requires information on the firm’s own complaints policy, when and how to complain to the Legal Ombudsman, and when and how to complain to the SRA
- Remember the estimate or quote is not a binding fee, it is an indication, but even so should be as accurate as possible. The tricky thing will be remembering to update the information on the site if anything changes in practice…
These requirements are minimums, firms may want to add other items noted in the “Best practice” part of the SRA’s guidance on the transparency rules. Some things to note that have caused confusion are whether to publish referrals fees and scheme memberships with the required information. The SRA have confirmed that neither are mandatory for publication.
Remember also the much publicised “digital badge” which the SRA require to be put on websites. This won’t be released until 6th of December so firms will need to remember to add this once it’s available.
Finally, as well as this information being required on the website, it is also required in an alternative format for those who have potential clients who don’t use, or can’t access the internet.
So there you have it, the potted version of what’s needed to the timescale.
And…if you need a little help to do this, we have a solution that we’re sure firms will find cost effective. For more information, look here; http://cpm21.co.uk/publish-your-fees