Ross: people are willing to pay for expertise

Law firm network QualitySolicitors has ditched its nascent ‘Upfront Price Promise’ in favour of a ‘Clear Price Guarantee’ (CPG) after its research found consumers valued transparency more than fixed fees.

Focus groups also thought that a ‘price promise’ made QS sound like a supermarket.

A new press advertising campaign has now begun, with TV adverts coming next month.

Although initially the plan was to encourage all QS firms to embrace fixed fees, we revealed in July that the network – under new chief executive Eddie Ross – was planning to modify this approach. Firms will still be able to offer fixed fees but will not be required to do so. They will instead be expected to provide clients with an estimate and regularly update it.

Speaking yesterday at the QS annual conference – to which Legal Futures had access – director of legal services John Baden-Daintree said the guarantee was that if a client had not been told about a charge in advance, they would not have to pay it.

He acknowledged that this would likely be the outcome of a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman anyway, but said the CPG packaged it up and also reflected the network’s philosophy of being “straightforward about legal costs”.

Mr Baden-Daintree said QS’s focus groups showed that consumers thought fixed fees were appropriate for certain types of work, but recognised that sometimes their solicitor would not know what might crop up later in their case. This meant they were concerned about what would happen under a fixed fee “when the money runs out”.

A poll of firms at the conference in Manchester found that 42% were enthusiastic about adopting the CPG for all areas of their practice, while 50% were “quite positive” about it for some types of work.

Mr Ross said: “Most [people] know that the cheapest legal advice isn’t going to be the best legal advice. They are willing to pay for expertise, advice and support, but they are nervous about signing what they see as an open cheque…

“I am confident that the Clear Price Guarantee can help QualitySolicitors firms win the confidence of new clients.”

Meanwhile, aping its £99 ‘Ask a legal expert’ service – which provides a one-off 45-minute face-to-face advice session – QS is introducing an offer of 90 minutes of “tailored business advice” for £195. This could be over one or two meetings.

Mr Baden-Daintree told delegates that the cost of providing 45 minutes of advice from a solicitor paid £30,000 was £14. This rose to £23 for a solicitor earning £50,000. Nonetheless there was resistance from a sizeable minority of delegates to the idea of offering such sessions for free as consumer rewards.

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    Readers Comments

  • James Swede says:

    Where is the originality in this? Providing an estimate and regularly updating it? Crikey, if we didn’t do that we would be hammered on a complaint. We are

  • James Swede says:

    errrr……….. you have to do this anyway QS!!! Really novel approach.

  • Neil says:

    How can an estimate by it’s very nature be related to a guarantee? If the actual cost is more than the estimate, the client does not have to pay the difference then? Clearly that’s not the idea, because that’s almost fixing the fee. This has the potential to be quite misleading.

  • Gary says:

    I asked some HSL Members what they thought and the general consensus is as James says; “firms already do this” “it seems like a case of in wit out with the new”

  • James says:

    Another load of spin. I feel sorry for the firms who pay these people to be told what the SRA requires anyway. Member firms need to wake up and smell the fact that this operation is a means of preying on firms who are scared of financial losses in a crowded market. What have QS actually done here? Rephrased the requirements that the SRA place on solicitors anyway? A couple of school kids could have come up with this. Professional services need to be professional, not made to sound like a cheap chain store. Perhaps QS firms are targeting the lower end of the legal market.

    I speak as a Director of a QS member firm and I can’t wait until the decision is made for us to tell QS that enough is enough.


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