The Importance Of Price And Service Transparency For Family Lawyers
On 6 December, 2018 the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) published new price and service transparency rules, applicable to all regulated family law firms and sole practitioners. There is a lot of debate about whether or not family lawyers (and other types of lawyer) should make their fees public, but here’s why it’s important.
As a family lawyer in Leicester, I am in competition with a number of family law firms in Leicestershire and across the East Midlands. For this reason, I was always hesitant to make my fees public because of the potential for my competitors to undercut me and gain more of the market share of clients.
My decision to withhold my fees from public access was never an attempt to hide them from potential clients, but rather a business strategy to stop competitors gaining a competitive edge, using them to their advantage to offer clients a lower price for services.
However, I recently added my fees for fixed-price packages to my website and was commended for doing so at a recent Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) annual event.
The information provided outlines the fees charged and the services clients will receive for the money they pay. The details are also very clear about what’s not included.
Why is price and service transparency important?
It protects you and your clients. For clients, publicising your fees and the services you provide for those fees, allows them to make an informed decision about using your legal services. One of the best ways to make costs clear to clients is to itemise everything.
For you, it means you don’t end up undercharging for services, if a client makes requests outside of the services for which you’re charging them.
Making your fees clear and visible to clients on your website means they know exactly where they stand with fees and the service they are getting for the price you charge.
One of the biggest concerns among clients looking to hire any type of lawyer, including family lawyers, is hidden charges. It’s important to be specific about certain costs. The one that tends to catch clients out is VAT. Be sure to present your total fee inclusive of VAT.
Make your pricing and services easy to find and easy to understand
Don’t conceal your prices, i.e. bury them in the terms and conditions or some other obscure place on your website – make them easily accessible. If a client is specifically looking for prices, they will navigate away from your website if you make them difficult to find.
A client is much more likely to make an enquiry if you’re clear-cut about your prices and services, so make them obvious.
Equally, when describing pricing and services, don’t overuse legal jargon. Make sure you present the information in plain English.
Most importantly, ensure that you review the information that you provide about your fees and services on a regular basis, checking that it’s not out of date.