SRA Handbook reforms – how compliant are you?

Gary Yantin

Gary Yantin, Director of Best Practice, VinciWorks.

By Gary Yantin, Director of Best Practice at Legal Futures’ Associate VinciWorks

Over 200 law firm owners and compliance officers joined VinciWorks last week for a webinar discussing the recent and forthcoming regulatory changes introduced by the SRA. The changes are the largest wholesale change to the way law firms are managed since the introduction of the Legal Services Act 2007 became law in 2010.

The main changes are; new rules for firms who provide Insurance, Price Transparency, the new Codes of Conduct and a revised set of Accounts Rules.

VinciWorks’ Gary Yantin and Ruth Cohen were joined by SRA Policy Associate Richard WIlliams who has been heavily involved in the current round of regulatory reforms. Richard explained that the rationale for the new rules is that current regulations did not meet with the Better Regulations objectives with which the SRA is committed to comply. The new rules, according to the SRA, provide greater choice and protection for consumers of legal services while also freeing up law firms from unnecessary bureaucracy and giving them greater freedom to run their businesses.

Prices for some services now need to be prominently displayed

As of 6 December all firms providing services in conveyancing, probate, motoring offences, employment tribunals, immigration, some debt recovery and licensing applications for business premises are required to publish their prices for these services in a prominent place on their website, if they have one, together with details of how the work will be carried out, and by whom, together with their complaints procedure. Richard emphasised that these requirements are the minimum details that a firm is required to publish. He further stipulated that the benefits to firms that embrace price transparency are potentially great. He referred to research that demonstrates that there is greater trust from the public in firms that have prices prominently displayed versus firms that prefer to hide their prices or only make them available upon request.

At the end of our webinar, we asked participants whether they thought that the price transparency rules will be beneficial to their firm. 76% stated that they did not think that they would be.

Is your firm’s website compliant?

A quick, non-scientific review of a few law firms’ websites the day after the rules became compulsory show a great discrepancy with what the SRA require and what firms are willing to do. One firm had a “404 page missing error” message where their prices should have been. Another had prices hidden in a lengthy overview of how the conveyancing process works. Another one had at least four clicks or scrolls to get to the prices page. Another says “we are doing this because the SRA requires us to”. One website didn’t have any prices at all but stated “contact us for pricing” while one firm suggested to us that maybe they should just get rid of their website to avoid having to reveal prices. I’m yet to see one that embraces the benefit of transparent pricing but I’ll keep looking. If you think that you have a great way of showing your prices and are compliant with the new pricing display rules please let us know.

VinciWorks will be hosting further webinars on the SRA changes early 2019 ahead of the release of new courses on the SRA codes of conduct and revised accounts rules. Complete our form to be kept up to date with all of the changes and our new course.

Associate News is provided by Legal Futures Associates.
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