The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has confirmed that all regulated law firms will be required to publish information on the prices that they charge, and what these cover, across a range of services, including the pursuit (for members of the public) and the defence (for small businesses) of claims for unfair or wrongful dismissal in employment tribunal. They will also have to display a new digital badge on their website showing the protections their regulated status gives clients. This comes as new research suggests that 85% of people want information on price, protections and quality of service before choosing a legal services provider. The two most important factors in choosing a provider are reputation followed by price.
The reforms are designed to improve public access to legal services by making information on price, protections and services more easily available. However, although it means that businesses will be able to find clear information on price before they decide to instruct a solicitor to defend them in the employment tribunal, enabling them to shop around online for the best price, its restriction to claims for unfair and wrongful dismissal means that the online pricing information is going to be of limited use in many cases. On average, a tribunal claim currently contains 1.6 jurisdictional complaints per claim, e.g. where a claim cites both unfair dismissal and sex discrimination, and of the total of 40,412 jurisdictional complaints submitted to employment tribunal in January to March 2018, only 4,749 were for unfair dismissal and 3,169 were for breach of contract, which includes (but isn’t limited to) wrongful dismissal. There will be no obligation on law firms to display their pricing information in relation to other types of claim, e.g. claims for discrimination, equal pay, holiday pay, unauthorised deductions from wages, etc. Similarly, if a claim cites two jurisdictions, such as unfair dismissal and disability discrimination, the pricing information will not reflect defending the discrimination part of the claim.
The reforms are to be submitted to the Legal Services Board for formal approval over the coming months. Subject to this, the changes are expected to be implemented on a phased basis from December 2018 onwards.