What is “transparency” and why does the legal market need it?

In Legal News

If you have been keeping up to date with the news recently you may have heard that the Competition and Markets Authority recently released a report into the state of the legal market. But why have they called for greater transparency? And what does this really mean for you the consumer?

In December, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) produced a report in which they addressed a number of issues relating to the relationship between service providers and consumers. As a non-ministerial department, the CMA works to promote competition for the benefit of consumers across a range of industries, both within and outside the UK.

The most significant findings of the report were that lawyers’ clients do not currently understand the either the price or the quality of the service they are receiving. In many cases, they also do not fully understand what is entailed in a particular legal service. In summary, the CMA established that there was a general lack of transparency within the legal sector – a problem that required a “step change”.

The CMA said:

Overall, we have found that the legal services sector is not working well for individual consumers and small businesses. These consumers generally lack the experience and information they need to find their way around the legal services sector and to engage confidently with providers.”

What is transparency all about?
On a basic level, price and service transparency is all about offering clients the right information at the right time to help them make informed decisions. This is often easier said than done because legal cases can be complex and convoluted. However, a legal service provider must always strive to help their clients gain an understanding of what their case entails and what their hard-earned money is going towards.

As The Law Superstore’s own research has shown, transparency is not just about helping consumers buy legal services at the very lowest prices; instead it is more about helping them to gain value for money by revealing the experience, credentials and service provision offered by various law firms to help them decide where to invest their money.

In our own survey more than half of people said that value for money was the most important consideration when selecting a legal service provider. Only around 1 in 5 people said that price was their primary consideration.

When choosing a legal service provider, clients want to understand:

-       What the legal process entails

-       How long this process should take

-       What a legal representative will do

-       How much the service will cost

-       How qualified the provider is to deliver the service in question

-       What previous customers think of the provider

With this information to hand, a client can not only gain a clearer understanding of the service they have purchased, but can build a trusting relationship with their legal expert.

Publishing prices
As the CMA has stated, publishing prices should be at the centre of a more transparent and consumer-friendly legal profession. Only 17% of law firms published prices in 2016, but with the help of The Law Superstore consumers will be able to compare a growing number of legal costs side-by-side to help them find the right provider for them.

For simpler, more straightforward cases, legal service providers are encouraged to quote fixed fees for services on The Law Superstore. For more complex cases, options such as fixed fees with capped hours are published instead. In personal injury cases and some disputes, firms may quote on a no win, no fee basis, while firms unable to offer accurate pricing may also utilise hourly rate or to be confirmed (TBC) pricing models.

In addition to any quoted costs, it is common for disbursements to be listed as additional costs. Disbursements are sums of money spent on behalf of a client, which will be charged back and can include the cost of: transaction fees, postage fees, photocopying costs or even anti-money laundering checks.

Want to find and compare legal service providers to help you choose an expert that represents value for money to you? Search now.


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