Report: cost of top London firms restricting access to justice

A report published today by the Centre for Policy Studies argues that the hourly rates charged by top London corporate law firms are so high that they risk restricting access to justice.

According to ‘The Price of Law’, with the hourly rates for a partner at a top London firm now exceeding £1,000, the costs involved in complying with UK legal procedure may prove prohibitive for some, particularly small businesses.

Lack of transparency

The report cites the increasing complexity of the UK tax and legal systems as one of the principal cases for the rapid increase in hourly rates. It also points to the lack of transparency in legal costs that allows top firms virtual control over their prices and a shortage of competition between top practices, which is indicated by the remarkable similarity in their rates.  

‘Outdated and unsustainable’

Furthermore, the report warns that charging by the hour rather than by the result is highly inefficient and a potential drain on productivity. It suggests that ‘Steps should be taken to ensure fair practice in legal procedure. The “billable hour” is an outdated and unsustainable billing method for legal services to continue. Alternative billing methods must be considered and legal procedure must be simplified to ensure that the legal market place thrives in the long term, and the price of law is not punitive.’

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