SRA Becoming Increasingly Forceful With Price Transparency Compliance

Following a recent LexisNexis report claiming that over a third of solicitors have rejected the transparency rules in their entirety and only 29% of firms have fully complied with regulatory requirements, the SRA have released an amended enforcement strategy.

The strategy looks at changes to reporting misconduct as well as making clear that it will not tolerate misconduct or victimisation towards whistle-blowers.

Paul Phillip, SRA Chief Executive, has also recently commented that the SRA will take a more proactive approach in sanctioning firms that are continually non-compliant. This will start with a random sweep of solicitor websites.

Following a sample that is representative of the population (initially 55 firms), a larger sweep will be made. The ‘proportionate’ enforcement that was originally adopted to combat non-compliant firms will become ‘increasingly forceful’ in the future.

Many solicitors are increasingly concerned that, instead of encouraging consumers to focus more on the services provided by a solicitor, price is becoming a determining factor in winning new business. 33% of potential new business is being won purely on price as opposed to the expertise within the law firm.

41% of respondents view publishing prices as a legitimate risk to their business as they fear reducing costs will disrupt the quality of service that will be provided.

The report also emphasised the clear divide between compliant and non-compliant firms. 29% of solicitors have fully embraced the transparent publishing of prices whilst a third of firms have rejected the rules to some extent.

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “Our revised Enforcement Strategy is designed to make it clear about what we do and when. It sets out the type of situations where we need to step in to protect the public. It will give the profession confidence that we consider and take action in an open, fair and consistent way.”

“It’s a bit like people who don’t fill in requests for information. We’re saying this is not a hugely important thing, but you’re obliged to do it, so you’re forcing us into taking disproportionate action when you should just comply and move forward.

“We come up against this type of thing time and time again. I have no doubt we will end up with a rump of people who end up in the corner saying they are just not doing it.

“At that point in time we will decide what to do. We will address it in a proportionate way but in an increasingly forceful way to ensure compliance.

“We’ll take a sample and see whether we think that sample is representative of the general population. If it is, we’ll take a larger sample.

“The regulations are full of words which are open to interpretation, we accept that. We think the exercise will be helpful for solicitors and firms and will hopefully lead to a better outcome in terms of understanding when you should be reporting misconduct to the regulator.

“Timely reporting of serious concerns is a key part of public protection. Our new rules make it clear that solicitors and law firms should report potential misconduct promptly.”

Is your law firm compliant with recent price transparency regulations? Do you think the SRA are being forceful enough with their recent enforcement strategy?