[Updated May 2021 with further useful information]
You will no doubt by now be aware that there are new SRA rules requiring law firms to publish price and service information on their website, in an accessible and prominent location, for certain areas of law, namely the following:
- Residential conveyancing (Freehold sale or purchase, leasehold sale or purchase, mortgages and re-mortgages)
- Probate (uncontested cases with all assets in the UK)
- Motoring offences (summary only offences)
- Employment tribunals (claims for unfair or wrongful dismissal)
- Immigration (excluding asylum applications)
- Debt recovery (up to £100,000)
- Licensing applications for business premises (new applications or varying existing licenses)
As well as prices, the rules also require you to publish information on:
- what services are included within the displayed price
- any services not included in the price that might reasonably be expected to be included
- details of the experience and qualifications of teams/individuals who will carry out the work
- typical timescales and key stages of the matter
The SRA has also announced that all firms must publish details of their complaints handling procedure on their websites (for a useful Complaints Procedure template from the SRA please click here) and carry a new SRA digital badge (for which click here) that will be provided to all authorised bodies. The digital badge is designed to:
- assist consumer awareness and understanding of regulatory protections
- help clients to validate a firm
- assist in protecting against fraudulent activity, such as cloned websites
The badge will also click through to a new SRA landing page listing client protections such as the level of PII cover and eligibility to submit a claim to the Compensation Fund.
Implementing pricing and transparency information on your law firm's website.
During consultation, the Law Society had raised concerns with the SRA about the impact the proposal could have on firms who do not have the capacity and/or funding to revamp their websites to respond to such requirements. The SRA consider their requirements "broad enough to provide firms with flexibility in how they publish their prices, whilst being clear enough to make sure consumers will receive a good upfront indication of the cost of a legal service".
For our law firm clients in England and Wales, implementing the required changes will be straightforward and taken care of as part of our ongoing commitment to ensuring they remain aligned to online best practice and compliant with any relevant regulatory requirements. However, if your law firm, like many others, has fallen behind the curve in terms of its online presence, implementing the required changes will probably feel like an unwanted hassle in your already busy and stressful lives.
You, along with myriad other law firms, may have been thinking about improving your website for months if not years, but it’s one of those things that you keep putting off as fee-earning pressures obviously take precedence.
As mentioned, the above changes need to be implemented by December. That being the case, perhaps now is the time to not only address the SRA’s requirements but to take a fuller, root and branch look at your website and online presence, in general, to ensure that it’s working for you, not against you.
Agree with the changes or not, the SRA’s motive is to improve transparency, which “should help to promote competition and contribute to improving access to justice”, according to the LSB’s Chief executive Neil Buckley.
In its application to the LSB, the SRA said its objective was to “enable consumers to compare different providers and make informed choices about which provider will best meet their needs”.
Given the fact that recent studies suggest that 96% of people looking for legal advice will use a search engine and 74% of potential clients will visit a firm’s website before instructing, consumers are already comparing potential providers online, and this is just another layer of transparency to help them on their buying journey. Therefore, it’s vital that you do everything you can to win the hearts and minds of potential instructing agents online. Leave nothing to chance.
Make sure that the SRA’s required changes work for your law firm, not against you
Implementing the SRA changes will offer a layer of transparency around your pricing and service delivery, but if this isn’t done within an online environment that is supportive of that information, then this additional transparency could end up being counterproductive. That being the case, here are some things that you should consider alongside the SRA’s required changes.
Law firm website design
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does your website offer a certain level of sophistication in design and user experience that is aligned with the online expectations of an increasingly internet-savvy population?
- Does your website accurately portray your firm’s brand and value proposition?
- Does your website accurately portray the depth or your expertise?
- Does your website prominently display indicators of trust?
- Given that your website will often be a potential instructing agents first experience of your firm, are you making a positive first impression?
If properly addressed, all of the above can be used to, for example, support a certain price point by suggesting gravitas, authority and expertise. Pricing information delivered within a website that answers no to all of the above isn’t likely to be as well received.
You know how good your law firm is. The average person visiting your site via organic search has no idea and the person visiting your website via a referral has an inkling but would like some more information about what you do and how you do it. This is where publishing in-depth, authoritative content on your site comes in to play. You will need to publish information around pricing, so it makes sense to say as much as you can about what it is that you expect people to pay for. Use content to highlight your experience, expertise and authority across relevant areas of practice.
It also makes sense to be transparent about who will be carrying out the work. People buy from people, as the old saying goes. Certainly, across all the law firm websites we manage, the bios of fee earners are always amongst the most visited pages, so don’t be shy.
If you are ranked in the legal directories, have won awards, are industry accredited, then these ‘trust icons’ should be prominently displayed on your website – for desktop, mobile and tablet.
Case Studies and Testimonials
Further, demonstrate authority and help build trust with potential instructing agents by highlighting to them, where possible, the terrific work you have carried out for others.
If you have been published in relevant industry publications or called upon by the media for an opinion, make sure this is referenced on your site (and always ask for a link back to your site from such publications where possible). If you’ve worked on particularly complex or high-profile cases, try to leverage that as much as possible.
If used properly, social media platforms relevant to your audience can be a great place to highlight thought leadership, knowledge share, debate, network and engage with potential clients.
Further Guidance from the SRA
The SRA has published further guidance here (current as of May 2021) and as at 2 October 2018 here: Ethics Guidance Note: Transparency in price and service.
Get in touch today to discover how we can help enhance the online presence of your law firm
Whether you just need somebody to bring your site up to the SRA’s new standards or work with your law firm longer term to develop a digital strategy designed to help increase your turnover, enhance your brand, improve your efficiency and future-proof your firm, we can help. Contact Chris today on 03333 442 722 or email .