The Legal Services Consumer Panel and the Legal Ombudsman are the latest organisations to come out against the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s proposal that practising solicitors be allowed to handle unreserved legal work for the public from unregulated firms.
Family law specialists should be required to work under fixed fees, the Legal Services Consumer Panel has suggested as it ramped up its call for regulatory intervention to improve transparency in the market. It said family law was one area where it advised that regulators “should now consider mandating fixed fees”.
The Legal Services Consumer Panel said last week that it was “not blind to the challenges of increased price transparency”, but insisted that making lawyers publish “average” prices could be the catalyst for making consumers ask more questions about cost.
Nearly half of consumer legal services are provided on a fixed-fee basis, new research has found – but it said consumers are still being hampered by a lack of information to help them choose the right lawyer, leading to “lower levels of satisfaction and trust in legal services”.
The slow pace of change in the legal services market means “regulatory intervention” is needed to force firms to publish their average prices even though it is not a perfect solution, the voice of legal consumers has said. The Legal Services Consumer Panel said this could also counter negative perceptions of lawyers.
Friday’s Competition and Markets Authority report on legal services has reignited the debate over independent regulation, with both the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Bar Standards Board welcoming the call for separation from their representative bodies.
Making law firms publish details of complaints and average prices on their websites will significantly improve the legal market for clients, the Legal Services Consumer Panel has argued. Its newly published annual report renews the panel’s push for open data, even though the Legal Services Board recently cast doubt on some of its key recommendations.
Law firms should offer “paralegal services” to cut the cost of advice on family matters, the Legal Services Consumer Panel has suggested. In a report for the Legal Services Board, the panel also called for greater use of unbundling and fixed fees.
Greater prescription of how client-care letters are framed could follow a Legal Services Board report yesterday that said “inaccessible language” used by lawyers prevents consumers from accessing legal services. It said other sectors have developed guides, logos and customer information which made buying services less daunting.
Law firms should be required by their regulators to publish details of complaints and average prices on their websites, the Legal Services Consumer Panel has said. The panel also called for the publication of firms’ litigation outcomes and success rates.