The Law Society has issued a new practice note underlining the importance that solicitors – particularly those who carry out conveyancing work – do not mislead prospective clients by giving them a false indication as to the likely cost of their professional services.
In accordance with the Law Society’s definition of the word ‘should’, solicitors need to be clear about their pricing unless they can justify to regulatory bodies why this was not the best route to take for their client.
So why is this a challenge for conveyancers and how can firms ensure that they are operating within these new guidelines?
In the vast majority of cases, it is seldom the right decision not to provide full disclosure to clients and the majority of firms would consider the scenario where a client is given a low headline price at the outset and encountering another upon completion as being an unsavoury practice.
Conveyancing firms however operate in an increasingly competitive market which inevitably puts pressure on pricing and capturing new business and has led firms in the past to sail close to the wind when it comes to being totally transparent.
For example in 2013, Andersons Solicitors were struck off of a number of lender panels and the partners were fined for the method of quoting which involved a low headline quote to encourage prospective clients to use their services.
Whether by accident or design, some solicitors mislead prospective clients by explicitly quoting a lower figure than the one they charge or by adding further charges to the bill once the transaction has completed.
As the Law Society details in the Practice Note,
“Some solicitors publicise their services using ‘headline’ prices, which represent the charge for a given service.”
Particular issues may arise if solicitors are unsure what to include in the headline price; as well as where in some cases “additional charges are later ‘bolted on’, or where items are referred to as ‘disbursements’ when they are not.”
“Clients should not be led to believe that costs are likely to be less than they will be and headline prices should be presented in a manner that enables ‘like for like’ comparisons in terms of cost information, with breakdowns of charges where appropriate.”
To ensure they are operating within these guidelines conveyancers should ensure that they have a properly thought out strategic system for quoting clients; something that Professor Ian Cooper, a leading business development consultant for the legal profession, says is lacking in the majority of firms.
In tandem with this new practice note TM Group are pleased to announce the release of their new quote conversion tool which helps law firms to present their pricing in a way that meets these guidelines.
In a few easy steps firms can create a detailed quote with accurate search pricing which is then distilled into a clear and simple breakdown identifying fixed charges for legal work along with additional fees and third party disbursements.
The quote can then be personalised and sent to the customer at the touch of a button, providing you with a streamlined and consistent approach to meeting the new guidelines.
Being open and transparent about your fees not only meets the new guidelines in this practice note but will make you more appealing to consumers at a time when they are looking for a firm who will guide them smoothly through what is likely the biggest purchase of their lives to date.
For more information on TM Group’s new quote conversion tool, visit http://www.tmgroup.co.uk/Quote-Tool