An independent report has revealed that a significant number of law firms are still struggling to fully comply with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) transparency rules, even though a minority of legal practitioners believe these rules are in the best interest of consumers. The SRA, however, celebrates the report as evidence of the scheme’s effectiveness.
The “Year Three Evaluation of SRA Transparency Rules,” conducted by the independent consultancy Economic Insight Limited, discovered that only 42% of firms claimed to be adhering to all the information requirements set by the regulator.
Nevertheless, when asked about specific aspects of compliance, 75% of firms reported displaying price and service information, 88% indicated the presence of the SRA’s clickable logo, 88% included details of their complaints procedures, and 76% provided information on how to file complaints with either the SRA or the legal ombudsman.
Despite these relatively low rates of compliance, the SRA contends that the research demonstrates the success of its transparency regime, which was introduced in 2019. The study found that 50% of individuals and 60% of small and medium-sized businesses, who recently engaged with legal service providers, compared price and service information before making their selection. Additionally, 55% of individuals and 61% of SMEs who compared the costs and services of different legal service providers reported that it was easy to do so using the available online information.
Paul Philip, SRA chief executive, said:
“We introduced the transparency rules because all the evidence showed neither the public nor small businesses had the information they needed. This review shows that’s now changing, and we want to see that progress continue, increasing access to justice and boosting competition across the whole of the legal market.”
Responses from law firms revealed that certain aspects of the rules, particularly those pertaining to price and service information, “could benefit from increased clarity,” which could in turn lead to enhanced compliance, according to the SRA. Firms suggested a need for clearer guidance on how to present cost information and more examples of best practices and templates.
The SRA has stated that it will continue to monitor compliance levels and provide support to firms in need of improvement. However, it will take action against those firms that deliberately fail to adhere to the rules. Such actions may involve fixed penalty fines of £750 for initial offenses of failure to publish information, with subsequent breaches incurring fines of £1,500.
The SRA also mentioned the possibility of introducing additional transparency requirements in the future.