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27 September, 2018
The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) has today published guidance on how those it regulates can comply with the new requirements on giving consumers up-front information to help choose a lawyer. These requirements have been made following consultation and in response to the CMA’s recommendations to help consumers make a more informed choice of lawyer. It is publishing this now to give firms as much time as possible to prepare for the new rules coming into effect.
This guidance sets out required minimum standards and also suggests good practice to benefit both consumers and practices. Practices are mandated what information they must display, but the guidance provides them with flexibility as to decide how they choose to implement the requirements.
From 6 December 2018, CLC-licensed firms will have to publish certain price, service and quality information on their websites (or in alternative formats if requested), as part of cross-industry push to empower consumers and foster innovation and competition across the legal services market. The CLC has worked with the SRA and CILEx Regulation on the requirements, guidance, templates and timescales to ensure that there is a level playing field for all and so that potential clients are able to make comparisons between providers.
The CLC has also published templates and examples of displaying cost information for both conveyancing and probate work. Firms are able to decide the best way to display cost information, such as examples of fixed fees based on specific values or a range of values of properties, hourly rates of members of staff with indicative timescales for transactions, or through instant estimate generators.
However, the CLC cautions that any estimate generator should produce an instant result directly to the consumer. “A consumer shouldn’t have to provide contact details to receive a call-back or email for an estimate,” the guidance says.
Service information on firms’ websites must include a description of the services they provide, key stages of the services, indicative timescales, and the staff mix, their experience and qualifications.
CLC chief executive Sheila Kumar says: “The new rules are due to come into force on 6 December, and those we regulate need to start working now to help potential clients make a better informed choice of lawyer. We have been consulting and talking about these changes for 2 years now and so we do not believe that this will cause firms undue difficulty. The guidance will help practices understand what is required, while the benefit to consumers could be considerable.
“I hope those we regulate will see these new rules as an opportunity to really differentiate themselves in what is a highly competitive market and so better appeal to clients on grounds other than just price. Helping consumers understand the value of the service they offer, the benefits of how they offer that service and the experience the client should expect will help the consumer make a more informed choice.
“Our approach has long been to set transparency requirements so we trust firms will see this as an extension of what they have already been doing. We work with the practices we regulate to support their compliance and along with the guidance we publish today we will be providing a range of support. We would urge firms to take advantage so they can meet our expectations and better serve their clients.”
The guidance and templates can be found here: https://www.clc-uk.org/lawyers/informed-choice/