As most of you will (or should) be aware, the SRA Transparency Rules (the Rules) came into force back in December 2018 requiring firms to publish price and service information if they publish that they work in the following areas:
Motoring offences (summary offences);
Immigration (excluding asylum);
Employment tribunals (unfair/wrongful dismissal);
Debt recovery (up to £100,000);
Licensing applications (business premises);
If your firm doesn’t have a website, you must still have this information available upon request in other formats.
The Rules also require all firms to publish details of their complaints procedure on their website, including how and when a complaint can be made to the Legal Ombudsman and to the SRA. From 25 November 2019 firms were also required to display the SRA’s digital logo in a prominent place on their website.
You may also be aware that the SRA has been conducting a programme of random sweeps of firm websites to monitor on-going compliance with the Rules. In November last year they reported that during a sweep of 447 live websites conducted in March/April 2019, only 25% of firms were fully compliant with the Rules. Of the remaining 75%, 58% were partially compliant and 17% were not compliant with the Rules at all. However, the SRA did provide useful feedback on the most common areas of non-compliance which were:
failing to publish the required complaints information;
failing to specify the amount of VAT applied to costs and disbursements;
failing to display information on key stages and/or timescales; or
failing to provide a description or costs of likely disbursements.
We are aware that the SRA has recently been contacting firms with the results of their latest sweep. Several firms we’ve spoken with have been surprised to learn that they are only partially compliant, despite undertaking considerable work on their respective websites. In our experience, whilst the SRA will indicate to a firm the service areas that they consider non-compliant in terms of the information provided, unfortunately they don’t provide exact details of the non-compliance(s), but instead state “insufficient information” has been provided.
When assisting clients to identify the missing information, we’ve found the SRA templates of suggested text to be very helpful (see https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/guidance/ethics-guidance/transparency-in-price-and-service).
We’ve recently undertaken our own survey of 10 websites for compliance with the Rules and found the following (based on our understanding of the application of the Rules):
Fully compliant: 1
Partially compliant: 8
Non-compliant in all areas: 1
When looking at the websites, we noticed that the issues flagged by the SRA back in November last year after their first “sweep” still featured high on the list of areas of non-compliance. We located the SRA’s digital badge on 8 out of the 10 websites reviewed.
At Teal we offer firms a website review service. We provide guidance on whether we consider that your website is compliant with the Rules and can assist with any remedial action needed. We can also provide guidance and assistance if you’ve received an SRA Notice informing you of non-compliance and directing you to take remedial action.
If you’d like to know more or if we can assist, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.