Solicitors – It’s time to be transparent on costs

Solicitors – It’s time to be transparent on costs

We’d like to give you a scenario. Imagine strolling into a gentleman’s or ladies outfitters for a wedding suit.

The said tailor is known for making fine outfits, so you look around undisturbed and happen upon a luxuriant cloth, which is much to “Sir or Madam’s liking.”

The tailor, a man who exudes experience, waxes lyrically about you having made an excellent choice of garment. So with chest pumped out you’re already a fair distance down the sales funnel. So, now you cut to the chase. How much?

He glances away, mumbles something about differing styles, the fact he will need a lot of material as you are on the large side, sighs a few times and then goes off kilter, wittering away about different types of buttons.

After a frustrating half an hour, where you gently enquire about the price once again, he talks about hems, cuts of cloth, extra pairs of trousers, zips etc, etc. You feel so exasperated that whilst he goes hunting for his measuring tape you slip out the door.

Instead, you wander into good old M&S, and in 15 minutes you’ve something that’ll do the job perfectly. It probably doesn’t look quite as good, but at least you’ve solved your problem

Well, welcome to the daily world of many high street law firms.

For several years now,  we have dealt with communications and marketing for solicitors practices up and down the country, and this haberdashery analogy is what too many of the public encounter, which either stops them buying legal services or encourages them to go to other legal providers, who can offer clarity.

Of course, our scenario paints a fairly broad picture – we all appreciate that legal services in their execution can encounter some problems, but for relatively straightforward services like uncomplicated wills or conveyancing, there really is no excuse not to give Joe Public a fixed price.

Our viewpoint seems timely after recent research from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) into the experiences of potentially vulnerable people using family law services, found law firms were making it difficult for clients to access information on costs and a solicitor’s experience.

The research said that 85% of firms offered unbundled services and 88% fixed fees, but the plans tended to be at the discretion of individual solicitors rather than a firm-wide strategy.

Though the simple fact is a huge number of law firms are doing themselves a disservice through lack of transparency.

As recently as December, the Competition and Markets Authority showed only 17 per cent of solicitors gave prices online.

The study, reported in The Guardian concluded: “The legal services sector is not working well for individual consumers and small businesses. [They] generally lack the experience and information needed to find their way around the legal services sector and to engage confidently with providers.

We’ve stood in many boardrooms in recent years talking to partners in firms from Brighton to Berwick giving straightforward advice, which applies equally to our Public Relations consultancy, an architect or even an electrician. However, law firms continue to steer away from this and make no changes, yet still complain when cheap online will writers etc eat into their market share.

People do not always buy on price alone and in many cases they buy on what they perceive as value, and certainly in the case of law firms it is expertise, recommendation and peace of mind, which are the major selling points.

Solicitors need to embrace the changing world with savvy firms, both inside and outside law currently breaking the mould and winning custom in ways that would be unimaginable a few years ago.

So High Street solicitor, show us all that you’ve nothing to hide. Be brave and talk about the price tag. Honestly, if you’ve nothing to hide the public will invariably think it’s worth it.