A probe into what impact post-Legal Services Act competition has had on the cost of legal services has been launched.
The Legal Services Board said that understanding changes in prices over time was one of the “key measures of the impacts of regulatory reforms designed to promote competition”.
It continued: “Changes in prices of legal services over time can be an indicator of changes in competition between providers, and affordability and access to justice for consumers.”
The research will focus initially on the prices charged by lawyers and others for conveyancing, divorce, wills and employment work.
The oversight regulator said previous investigations had revealed only limited information, and there was a “major gap in understanding” of the prices individual consumers pay for commonly used legal services.
The LSB went on: “The main aim of this research is to develop a robust methodology for understanding the prices paid for some key legal services commonly purchased by consumers.
“While the initial priority is to focus on individual consumers, the methodology may also be extended to small and medium sized businesses in the future.”
The LSB said the research would focus on situations where the consumers had funded themselves privately, meaning personal injury, mainly funded by insurance and conditional fees, would not be included.
“Providers of legal services employ a variety of pricing options when they sell services to consumers. What is included within a service and what is marketed as an optional extra will vary across the market, so a key challenge will be to identify specific scenarios to enable like-with-like comparisons.
“Another element is the treatment of disbursements; the methodology will need to address whether to capture disbursements within the price or just use the provider’s base fee. The challenge for this research project is to develop a methodology that allows prices to be easily comparable.”
OMB Research has been commissioned to carry out the work. To take part, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. In return, OMB will send participants a direct link to the report once it is published, and highlight how their prices compare to the average prices given across all survey participants.