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Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) Transparency Proposals Survey: Focus on Service, Not Costs Say Conveyancers article image

Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) Transparency Proposals Survey: Focus on Service, Not Costs Say Conveyancers

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We recently published new research based on a survey of Heads of Conveyancing in firms across England and Wales, on the implications of the proposed requirement by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that law firms should be more transparent on their legal costs and service quality.

There’s was consensus that there is limited or no merit in publishing legal costs on firms’ websites for comparison. Some 80% of those surveyed, do not publish prices online, as pricing is determined by clients’ individual needs.

However, three quarters of the respondents thought that independently sourced client reviews provided the best determinant for law firm selection. However, it’s clear that there’s some way to go in providing this, with only half publishing client comments, reviews or testimonials on websites – and often in an inconsistent manner.

Other key findings include:

  • The majority of firms need to make some or significant changes to their websites and marketing presentation
  • Publishing prices will do little to halt the perceived slide to the bottom on price
  • Firms are not convinced that publishing prices will generate incremental leads for them
  • They are generating leads through word of mouth recommendation and online search marketing without the need to refer to price.
  • Displaying prices will only work if they are done in a consistent fashion for true comparison, but many felt that you cannot automatically compare price with service level.

This survey highlights real reservations around the negative impact of publishing prices. Heads of Practice agree that publishing prices will not change the market dynamics. Many feel that it is their brand and local reputation that comes first, and the perception that the firm is sensitive to client needs. Price, they believe, comes late in many discussions, only once prospects are satisfied that the law firm meets the service quality required.

Therefore, any solution that is going to work for conveyancers is going to have to put a lot of effort into contextualising the pricing message using performance data - both operational and client driven.

There’s also clear frustration from firms at the prospect of yet more regulation, at a time when compliance already puts considerable strain on client service delivery. A parallel is also drawn with other comparison websites – allowing potential clients to view the price of services without appreciating what they are signing up to, which could accelerate the rush to the cheapest – a behaviour that is now engrained in highly commoditised transactions, like insurance.

Indeed, Heads of Practice are standing firm behind the principle that knowledge should not be supplied for free or at bargain rates. However, firms could indeed lean more on their expertise in Land Law and Conveyancing Practice as well as the constantly changing areas of AML, SDLT, fraud, IT and PII.

Perhaps firms could bring this more into the foreground – and maybe encourage wide ranging and rich feedback on HOW great service was delivered – as the way forward. Ideally, this should be in a consistent format that law firms and clients alike can work with.

It seems to clear to me that a consistent and standardised form of client feedback, such as that from Trustpilot, combined with meaningful and easy to understand performance data on firms’ standards should be an effective basis for comparison – and from our research, one that conveyancers would be willing to embrace.

About the Author:

Richard Hinton founded Pitsford Consulting in 2013, having spent 25 years working in strategic and business development roles in the conveyancing industry. He offers consultancy to a range of legal and technology businesses and has developed a suite of data-driven business tools for conveyancers.

Prior to Pitsford Consulting, he did a 12-year stint as Business Development Director of Shoosmiths solicitors; was Head of Residential Property for Lexis Visualfiles; and held the position of Head of Business Strategy at Searchflow.

He is a founding member of the Conveyancing Association and was part of the team that launched the concept of direct conveyancing in the UK.

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