In part one of this article, we’ll look at the forthcoming pricing transparency guidelines issued by the Law Society of Scotland. While this article makes specific reference to the guidance issued to Scottish firms, the article itself is of general application to law firms who may need (or choose!) to publish pricing information.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
As you will by now no doubt know, the Law Society has issued guidance on ‘Price Transparency.’ This guidance is designed to facilitate the publication of pricing on law firm websites, for certain services.
Essentially part of a modernising approach, ‘price transparency’ guidance follows the idea that law firms ought to make things a bit easier for the client. Specifically, it aims to make the issue of costs & pricing easier for clients to understand.
This is normal in other industries & walks of life, however, it has been met with some resistance.
There are a number of reasons. Some solicitors fear a price-driven race-to-the-bottom. Others are concerned about how accurately they can estimate & price work, and worried of running afoul of the Law Society and client if costs escalate.
Are these concerns valid? Some are, some less so. The guidance tries to chart a path through the perfunctory concerns (such as how to provide sufficiently flexible estimates) but the more esoteric concerns about the psychological & business impacts of publishing prices can’t adequately be addressed there.
These concerns are more psychological in nature - Will customers be put off? Will we lose business? What does our pricing say about us? What will our competitors do with this information?
Let’s look at it critically. Let’s say I’m buying a house (which I currently am, FWIW!). I visit my bank’s website and I’m greeted with a Mortgage Calculator. When I’m looking into estate agents, I can find their pricing easily. When I’m looking into insurance, I can find a calculator.
In most cases, when I search for a local solicitor, their pricing is a mystery! There’s little or nothing on the website around pricing and certainly no calculator!
As a busy working parent, I’m probably doing this at 9pm when the kids are in bed. I can take strides towards getting my mortgage and buying insurance at this time of night. I can compare estate agency fees and book a valuation. Am I able to find out how much my solicitor will cost me? Probably not! Will I be able to take any meaningful step (such as getting a quote or booking an appointment)? Probably not. That will necessitate a phone call the next day and, in many cases, this phone call won’t be the most pleasant experience of my day. Or, my call may get missed.
First, let’s see what the guidance says:
Practice units should make information on the services they offer, and their relative prices, as readily available as possible to consumers, in a manner which is timely, meaningful, accessible, easy to understand and which allows the consumer to compare information across providers.
It goes on to say:
Where the practice unit has a website then price information should be published in a prominent location which is clearly signposted and without the need to provide detailed information to access this.
What does this mean? At a basic level, having a comprehensive list of fees on a single page would seem to fit the bill. If this is in the site’s main menu then that is arguably sufficient. However, while it might tick the necessary boxes, is it optimal? Is it allowing your pricing to work for you? We would say no.
For one thing, there are few other service or product websites with a centralised pricing page and product information contained elsewhere (save perhaps brochure-style websites such as a hairdresser for example). Generally speaking, pricing for a certain product (even in a loose “Prices from £X” format) are contained on the relevant page! Prices from, prices per square metre, price per hour or per month are typical.
We would suggest that firms put pricing information somewhere it can form part of The User Journey.
Here is a simplified version of the typical client user journey through a law firm’s website:
Having your pricing tucked away in the footer or (just as bad) on a standalone page accessible only from one location doesn’t contribute to this journey - link to it within each of your service pages or better yet, put the pricing information for each service on the relevant page - it doesn’t have to be in just one location!
As the above graphic suggests, elements of your website should link to each other so there is a natural ‘flow’ as your customers move down the buying journey. Relevant information should be served at every step in a way that follows our “don’t make me think” mantra - the next step should always be obvious to the user.
We'll publish part 2 next month - stay tuned.