Monthly Archives: May 2016

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Legal Services Board Voices Concerns About Price Publishing

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has expressed reservations that legal firms should publish their “average prices.” The LSB is concerned that rather than helping consumers, which is the intention of the recommendations, the data could instead prove misleading and confusing.

The recommendations in question were made by the Legal Services Consumer Panel, which was looking into methods of “opening data” from the legal industry. The panel suggested that it should be made a requirement by approved regulatory bodies that firms and individual practitioners within the legal industry should make information on their prices accessible. Specifically, it was recommended that they publish the average cost of the services they provide, including disbursements, on their website, and also be bound to produce this information if it is requested.

The LSB, in response to these recommendations, accepted that there is evidence to suggest “weak price transparency” in the legal industry. However, the board recommended that “careful” appraisal of the benefits and costs should be carried out before regulators consider making the publication of average prices a requirement.

“It is not clear at this stage,” the LSB said in a letter to the panel in response to these recommendations, “whether publication of average prices for particular legal services would be more helpful than misleading for customers.”

In its letter, the LSB also spoke of the “burden for practitioners” that the need to calculate and publish these averages would create. Furthermore, the matter of reaching an agreed and auditable methodology for calculating average prices, the LSB said, “could be challenging.”

Nonetheless, the Legal Services Consumer Panel’s recommendations were not outright opposed by the board either. Rather, the LSB said that it could not “reach a firm view on this recommendation” without it being subjected to further discussion and more detailed analysis of evidence.

The Legal Services Consumer Panel also made a number of other recommendations. These included the publication of complaints records, and the suggestion that regulators could use a “mystery shopping” approach to assess the quality of legal advice given by practitioners on sensitive or high-risk legal issues and then publish the results of this research. The LSB also expressed reservations about this suggestiion, saying that regulators “cannot (and should not) directly oversee practitioners when they serve their clients.” The board supported the principle of improving the understanding approved regulators have of the quality of advice being given in the legal industry, but said that the proposed research could be an expensive way to “only provide a snapshot in time for a small sample of practitioners.”