Legal price transparency regulations came into force in December 2018. However, transparency on pricing is not their sole aim.
The real aims of the new rules extend further than producing simple price lists. Part of the rationale behind them is to achieve higher levels of client satisfaction. Or fewer, complaints to the Ombudsman, depending upon how you look at things.
In many senses, price transparency is a blunt instrument. It tackles one area of communication where things go wrong. The real challenge is getting the whole client communication mix right. Before tackling that issue, let’s take a look at exactly what the regulations cover.
It doesn’t cover everything, but these are the key areas of law:
Your firm is required to present the information in a clear and easy to understand way and also:
For service information you must:
Firms without a website should make this information available upon request in other formats.
Well, if you Google “solicitor price transparency” and visit a few law firm websites, you could be forgiven for thinking not. Many of the pages listing so called transparent prices for various legal services look more like excruciatingly byzantine contracts! No names, no pack drill. However, they do perfectly illustrate a problem the legal profession has had for years: the inability to properly cost services. Without this, it is difficult to draft fee estimates that make sense to clients.
Ultimately, the proof will be in the pudding. In the early days, the SRA’s emphasis is on collaboration with law firms. Presumably castigation comes later.
What you see from the many websites is a formulaic approach. That has come from the SRA’s own guidance notes. Perhaps that’s no bad thing as a starting point. It sets out a clearer picture for clients from the outset. That should be built upon as the work and the relationship progresses.
So, what is the next stage? Price is just one area where good communication is essential. In the modern digital world, ongoing communication throughout the course of transactions is as vital. This means managing expectations from start to finish.
Build these into your methodologies for handling different types of matters. Or, better still, make them part and parcel of the way your practice management software handles cases. For example, when you reach a critical point in a conveyancing transaction, make sure your client is informed automatically. Or, when a deadline is unlikely to be met, give prior warning. Don’t wait for your client to chase you up.
Face-to-face meetings and phone calls are being replaced rapidly by online as the clients’ communication medium of choice. In fact, the degree to which this requirement is taking hold often leaves clients who do not receive timely notifications feeling left out. Worse, many believe that you are not being fully transparent and not delivering what you promised at the time you promised it.
Even a brief email or text telling your client that the matter has not progressed as expected will provide reassurance. As long as you back it up with a revised schedule.
It’s not just email and text that demonstrate your start-to-finish transparency. Most of your clients will have made online purchases of various varieties. When they did, they automatically received access to the vendor’s online “portal”. This tells them the status of the purchase and anticipated fulfilment times and dates. Clients expect no less from you.
If they can log in to their account with you and see matter progress at the press of a button, they have the reassurance that things are on track – provided you have updated the portal. Updating your portal might just seem like another administrative chore that can be easily overlooked. That could be the case if your portal is a stand-alone piece of software unconnected to your practice management system.
The best client portals, like LawWare’s own, are fully integrated into your PMS. By granting access to the portal to your clients you can select which information, case notes or documentation they can see and allow them to keep up to speed on the progress of their case as it happens. Integration with the PMS removes the chore element as all case progress is updated automatically to the portal.
So, rather than it just being a question of price transparency, it’s more a case of managing client expectations from start to finish. If you get it right, you will have the most powerful new business development tool of all – satisfied clients. They will come back to you in the future. They will tell their contacts about you and recommend you. Satisfied clients will act as mini ambassadors for your firm.
So, embrace the new rules – and take them that small step further.
© LawWare Limited 1995-2020
Our clients range from small start-up legal practices to multi-partner, multi-site firms.
Another great customer service experience from LawWare. My laptop had to be stripped back to factory settings as part of a repair - taking hours! In contrast, restoring LawWare took one phone call to the support team and I was up and running in 6 minutes. If only everything was so easy!
As the first commercial user of LawWare back in 1998, we have had no hesitation in remaining with the product through its development. We thoroughly recommend it to any firm looking for a practice management system.
The helpdesk is exceptionally good. Whatever the query there is always a human being there to help. No leaving messages or being advised to go to a website. The best computer service for solicitors I have ever used!
The linking of documents and casefiles saves so much time! I have experience of several accounts packages and I like that LawWare is simple to use and easy to learn. Support is quick and effective and staff are helpful and courteous.
I have worked with a number of Case Management providers over the years but have not come across anything with the attention to detail and thoroughness of LawWare. My colleagues and I have not been disappointed.
I can’t imagine trying to be a law firm in the 21st Century without 21st Century IT systems. Having a ‘single system’ that underpins all the work, whether we are in the office or out, is an integral part of what we are building.
The level of support is the main benefit using this system. The system itself once you have had training is simple and easy to use. We have a great relationship with LawWare and the ongoing support is second to none.
Significant preparation was required to configure and import the data from our old firm. We had to get all clients onto the new system and then learn how to use it. We just find it very easy to use, much easier than our old system.
Being a busy litigator with a growing firm it is incredibly useful to be able to view my files from any location with some form of internet connection. I am a fan, and want to keep working with LawWare to make a good product great.
The switch to the new LawCloud system, which is still on-going, has gone very well. We found the LawWare team without exception to be very helpful and knowledgeable. All queries are followed up and dealt with promptly.