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20 April 2017 at 13:21 BST

Regulator wants greater transparency from law firms

The Legal Services Board (LSB) expects frontline regulators to introduce compulsory 'minimum disclosures' by law firms on price, service, redress and regulatory status as it does not believe that change can come from within the legal fraternity.

Rabia Elif Aksoy

In its response to the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) market study of legal services, the LSB agreed with the CMA that ‘the market cannot be expected to mend itself’ without regulatory action ading that action was needed to deliver a ‘step change in standards of transparency’ by law firms to help consumers understand the price and service they receive.

Independent feedback platforms

Other items the LSB is pushing for include helping to create a ‘dynamic intermediary market’, by ensuring that information was freely available to comparison websites and others and that the use of independent feedback platforms would be promoted to help consumers find out more about the quality of service being provided. It pointed out that such platforms would also afford customers better information at the start of the process, when they were identifying their legal needs and the different types of providers. In addition the LSB also said it expected frontline regulators to collaborate with a view to exploring the feasibility of a single digital register for all lawyers.

Measurement of success

Postive outcomes of such new regulations would include research showing that cusomers were shopping around more, that more law firms were publishing their prices and that there were fewer complaints to the Legal Ombudsman about lack of transparency.

'Long standing concerns'

Neil Buckley, chief executive of the LSB, said the CMA study was the result of ‘long-standing concerns’ about the legal services market in England and Wales. He said: ‘The LSB has long been clear that there is a need to increase competition in the market and a major part of achieving this will be to ensure there is better information available for consumers in relation to price, quality, redress and regulation. The conclusions reached by the CMA are in line with the LSB’s own.’

Increasing moves for transparency in fees

In January it was reported that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) had begun work on plans to force law firms to make public fees for services such as divorce, wills or conveyancing.

 
   
 
 
 

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