1. Introduction

This guidance, together with examples has been produced to promote price transparency and encourage practice units to proactively take steps to publish price information in a way that is easily accessible, prominent and understandable for consumers.

Please note that in light of the Coronavirus outbreak the new price transparency guidance, which was due to come into effect on 1 April, has been delayed and will come into effect on 1 July 2020.

Read more in the box below.

1.1 Background

This guidance has been produced to reflect the findings of the Competition and Markets Authority Report 2016 which suggests that consumers are disadvantaged by the lack of readily available price information from providers of legal services and the absence of available price information may be preventing consumers making an informed choice when selecting from those providers.  

The Society has a statutory duty and objective to promote the interests of the public and competition in the provision of legal services.   In developing this guidance, the Society’s Regulatory Committee was mindful of acting proportionately. Unlike England and Wales, where the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has introduced practice rules on price information, the Society’s Regulatory Committee takes the view that this guidance supports the profession and demonstrates commitment to that statutory objective in a proportionate way.

1.2 Purpose of this guidance

This guidance has been produced to promote price transparency and encourage practice units to proactively take steps to publish price information in a way that is easily accessible, prominent and understandable for consumers. This would allow consumers to make an informed choice of legal service provider without the need to submit detailed information in order to obtain information on price. This guidance provides examples of how a practice unit may choose to publish price information to help promote transparency. The examples are illustrative only, suggesting ways practice units may set out their pricing for consumer information.

Guidance does not have the same status as a rule, and it is not compulsory to follow guidance. The purpose of guidance is to assist solicitors and others providing legal services to meet the standards of good professional and ethical practice. In the event of a complaint being raised in relation to the guidance, a solicitor would have to provide a reason for not following it.

This guidance is for all practice units who provide legal services to consumers. It is not intended to apply to legal services provided to businesses.

This guidance does not apply to practice units which undertake legal aid funded work only.

Nothing in this guidance removes the responsibility on the practice unit to ensure compliance with the Practice Rules.

1.3 Benefits of Price Transparency

As well as allowing consumers to make a better-informed choice, price publication can bring clarity so consumers better understand what to expect from their solicitor and may help to avoid misunderstandings and price related complaints. It can also support access to justice as research indicates that some consumers are discouraged from seeking professional legal advice as they perceive the cost to be unaffordable for them.  Price publication may help to reduce that perception and encourage consumers to use a trusted and regulated provider of legal services.

1.4 Status of published prices

It is recognised that the varying complexity and circumstances of individual legal matters makes it difficult to publish crystallised prices.  Therefore, the intent and purpose of price transparency is to provide a general idea as to cost, not to publish a binding price. Practice units may choose to publish a typical, average or fixed price. However, where a practice unit chooses to publish a fixed price then it should be clear what is and is not included within the fixed price.

2. Publishing price information

2.1 When to provide price information

There are two points where price information should be provided to consumers:

  1. When the consumer is searching for a price. At this point the consumer may wish to obtain a general idea of price to make an informed choice across several practice units. The price information should be available upfront, for example on a website and this guidance is relevant to this stage. 
  2. The second point is at the instruction stage. This is where the consumer contacts and engages with a practice unit direct, providing further details of the legal matter in question. At this point mandatory compliance with Practice Rule B4 (Client Communication) requires solicitors to provide the following information in writing to clients:
  • An outline of the work to be done;
  • An estimate of the total fee or the basis upon which the fee will be charged including VAT and outlays;
  • Details of any contribution towards Legal Advice and Assistance or Legal Aid and details of the effect of preservation or recovery of any property if relevant;
  • Who will do the work and
  • Who the client should contact if they have any concerns or complaints.
 2.2 Where to publish 

Practice units should make information on the services they offer, and their relative prices, as readily available as possible to consumers, in a manner which is timely, meaningful, accessible, easy to understand and which allows the consumer to compare information across providers. The consumer should be able to access price information without being required to supply personal data (such as names or contact details).  

Where the practice unit has a website then price information should be published in a prominent location which is clearly signposted and without the need to provide detailed information to access this.

Where the practice unit does not have a website, then price information should be readily available in another format which can be provided to the consumer, again without the need for the consumer to provide detailed information. For example, price information leaflets could be available in public facing parts, in a reception area, of practice unit premises, via social media or by a web-based online quote calculator.

2.3 Form of price information 

Price information should be provided in a suitable and understandable form. However, it is for the practice unit to decide on the most appropriate form to suit their business model. Different formats may be suitable for different services. For example, practice units may choose to provide information that:

  • sets out the hourly chargeable rates for each level of fee earner,
  • provides fixed fees price,
  • sets out scenario fees or the price of a typical case.  

When publishing a total price (fixed fees, scenario or typical price) the guidance relating to Practice Rule B3 (Advertising and Promotion) should be complied with.

Prices for consumers should be shown as VAT inclusive. Where VAT inclusive pricing is used, this should be made clear. For example, ‘Prices inclusive of VAT at 20%’.

Where VAT exclusive prices are given, it must be made clear that the price does not include VAT. This must be stated along with the current applicable rate. For example: ‘Prices do not include VAT. VAT will be charged at the rate of 20%’.

2.4 Clear and meaningful language

Language within the price information must be clear and in words which are understandable to the consumer, avoiding the use of legal terms wherever possible. Guidance on this can be obtained from the Plain English Campaign. The language should not be ambiguous in any way.   Practice units must have regard to compliance with Practice Rule B3 (Advertising and Promotion).

2.5 Price information to be provided

This guidance is not intended to place an obligation to publish price information which is a binding quote. The price information published only needs to be an average or typical price.

It is acknowledged that it may not be possible to publish an accurate price for every service in every scenario, or to anticipate unusual complexities, but the published information should be an average or typical price to allow consumers to have an informed understanding of the likely cost of the services offered, and of the factors which may influence the final cost. As far as possible, the price information provided should be complete and contain enough information to allow the consumer to understand the price that is relevant to their circumstances.

When publishing price information this should include:

  • details of the services included;
  • details of any services that a consumer may reasonably expect to be included, given the nature of the work, but which are not, in fact, included;
  • where hourly chargeable rates are applied, information about the level(s) of fee earner(s) who will undertake different parts of the work;
  • where you publish a range of prices, the basis of your charges, and the types of factors which will determine the final price;
  • a description of any likely outlay and its likely cost – or the method by which such cost is calculated;
  • whether any fees or outlays attract VAT – and how this is calculated.

Where appropriate, the price information should make it clear, that the price is an average or typical price only and the final price will be dependent on the circumstances of the legal matter.

2.6 Additional information

When publishing price information, the practice unit may choose to publish other information which allows consumers to be able to assess value for money, for example the level and quality of service to be provided.

Where a practice unit chooses to publish additional information on quality of service, then they must be mindful of compliance with Practice Rule B3 (Advertising and Promotion).

2.7 Additional complexities

The very nature of legal matters often gives rise to unforeseen complexities and additional work. This guidance does not require practice units to provide or publish binding price information or to pre-empt complexities arising. However, where complexities arise or the nature of the client’s instructions change, then the practice unit should inform the client of this and provide revised price information.

Nothing in this guidance removes the responsibility of the practice unit to provide in writing the specific information required in Practice Rule B4 (Client Communication) when tendering for business or at the earliest opportunity upon receiving instructions to undertake any work on behalf of a client.

3. Examples

The price transparency examples below aim to help practice units consider how best to publish price information. These are for illustrative purposes only and should be tailored by practice units to suit their business model and to reflect the legal service offered. They are not intended to be templates but to provide suggestions of how a practice unit may approach price transparency.  

If you are setting out a fixed fee, you should be clear what services are included and what is not included in the fixed fee.

3.1.1 Fixed fee example 1:
Divorce – simplified procedure divorce / dissolution of civil partnership.

A simplified divorce procedure may be appropriate only where there are no outstanding financial matters to resolve between the parties and there are no children of the marriage or civil partnership under 16 years of age.

Initial meeting

We will first meet with you to consider and discuss if the simplified procedure is appropriate for your case. This may require us to gather information so we can be sure that the simplified procedure is appropriate.

For this first meeting our fixed fee will be £{insert amount} inclusive of VAT at 20%.

Our fixed price includes:

  • Meeting with you, taking instructions and providing advice on the simplified divorce procedure
  • Collecting information from you about your position, your finances and family circumstances
  • Assessing if simplified procedure is appropriate in your case and advising you on next steps
Where the simplified procedure divorce / dissolution of civil partnership is appropriate

If the simplified procedure is appropriate, then our fixed fee for completing a simplified divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership will be:

  • £{insert amount} inclusive of VAT at 20%. This excludes outlays (fees which may need to be paid to third parties).

The outlays will include:

  • Court fees: These increase annually. The current fee is £{insert amount} .
  • Service fees: Service by sheriff officer, where service by recorded delivery has not been possible. The current fee is £{insert amount}

Our fixed price includes:

  • completing the application to the court and arranging for you to sign it
  • notarising the application to court
  • lodging application and any supporting documents with the court  

The above fixed price include VAT charged at 20%

Note:   This fixed price will only cover the services mentioned. Your case may require additional work that is not included. We will discuss this with you at our initial meeting. If additional costs arise due to unforeseen circumstances, we will discuss this with you at the earliest opportunity and we will advise you of any increase in price that may arise.

3.1.2: Fixed fee example 2:
Sale of a residential property

Our fees cover all of the work required to complete the sale of your current property including the marketing of your property, dealing with any offers and subsequent missives, ordering searches, repaying any secured loans and registering any deeds at Registers of Scotland and paying any funds to you.

 Fees and outlays
  • Legal fee £{insert amount}
  • VAT payable £{insert amount}
  • Estate Agency Fee £{insert amount}
  • Home report fee £{insert amount}
  • Property Search fees £{insert amount}
  • Registers of Scotland – fee for registering Discharge £{insert amount}
  • Advance notice registration fee for Discharge £{insert amount}
  • Electronic money transfer fee £{insert amount}

Estimated total: £{insert amount}

Outlays are costs related to your matter that are payable to third parties, such as Registers of Scotland and Search Companies. We handle the payment of the outlays on your behalf to ensure a smoother process.

Stages of the process

The precise stages involved in the sale of a residential property vary according to the circumstances. However, below we have suggested some key stages that you may wish to include:

  • Take your instructions and give you initial advice
  • Carry out required Anti Money Laundering checks
  • Arrange home report
  • Market the property
  • Receive offers on property and take your instructions
  • Obtain redemption statements from current lender (the amount required to repay your mortgage)
  • Order Title Deeds
  • Receive and advise on missives (contract)
  • Carry out property searches as required
  • Obtain further planning documentation if required
  • Revise draft documents received from purchasers’ solicitors
  • Conclude missives (and notify you that this has happened)
  • Issue completion statement
  • Complete sale
  • Repay any mortgages and pay any outlays due
  • Prepare the discharge of the standard security and submit this to the Registers of Scotland
  • Paying any surplus funds due to you
3.1.3: Fixed fee example 3
Simple Wills

Single Will (for the estate of one person)                                    £{insert amount} inclusive of VAT

Mirror Will (identical wills drafted for two persons)                  £{insert amount} inclusive of VAT

If you are married, in a civil partnership of cohabiting, a Mirror Will may only be appropriate where neither you nor your partner has children from a separate relationship. Where this is the case, we will be happy to meet with you and discuss the options based on your circumstances.

Complex wills; for example, those with guardianship clauses or requiring specific and more detailed consideration and advice on legacies or limiting the inheritance of, or disinheriting, beneficiaries.

Single Will                                                                £{insert amount} inclusive of VAT

Mirror Will                                                               £{insert amount} inclusive of VAT

Our prices above include:

  • taking your instructions,
  • providing advice as appropriate to your requirements
  • providing advice on legal rights
  • preparing a draft will for you to review,
  • making changes following review,
  • complete execution of the will,
  • storage of original will in our secure storage facility and
  • providing you with two copies of your will.

The above fixed price include VAT charged at 20%

Our fixed price will not include:

  • work associated with lifetime trusts such as drafting trust deeds,
  • advice and work associated with bankrupt or otherwise vulnerable beneficiaries,
  • advice on inheritance tax,
  • preparing the transfer of heritable property (buildings and land) into a trust.

Note:   This fixed price will only cover the services mentioned. Your case may require additional work that is not included. We will discuss this with you at our first meeting. If additional costs arise due to matters related to your own personal circumstances, we will discuss this with you at the earliest opportunity and we will advise you of any increase in price that may arise.

 

3.2 Typical Case – range of prices

If you do not wish to provide a total price, or it is difficult to calculate this, then you have the option to provide an average range of prices.   The range of prices should be based on your own experience. Below we have set out an example which shows a range of prices which are dependent on the matter, using the parameters of simple, medium or high complexity. The examples used relates to an employment claim for wrongful or unfair dismissal and road traffic offences.   However, this model of price transparency can be used for any legal matter.

3.2.1: Range of prices example 4
Employment matters - wrongful or unfair dismissal

Below we have set out our pricing structure for bringing a claim for wrongful or unfair dismissal based on the cost for a typical case.  

The price to you will vary depending on the complexity of the case.  We will provide you with our estimated price following an initial meeting to discuss your particular matter.

The time spent on your case also impacts significantly on the price.  More complex cases will require more time.

Factors which could impact on the complexity of the case include:

  • Number of witnesses 
  • Allegations of discrimination or whistleblowing
  • Any delay in the case proceeding to a final hearing
  • Failure to agree issues

Below we have set out our typical range of prices by way of illustration 

Simple case                                                               £{insert amount} – £{insert amount}  (including VAT 20%)

Moderately complex case                                      £{insert amount}  - £ {insert amount} (including VAT 20%)

Highly complex case                                                £{insert amount}  - £ {insert amount} (including VAT 20%)

The above illustrative price will include the following key stages, although these are provided for illustrative purposes only. Not all stages may be required. This will depend on the circumstances of your case. Some cases may require more stages, and this will increase price.

  • Taking initial instructions and providing preliminary advice
  • Entering into pre-claim conciliation to explore if agreement can be reached.
  • Preparing claim or response to claim
  • Reviewing claim or response of other party
  • Exploring possible settlement and entering into discussion where appropriate
  • Preparation / reviewing schedule of loss
  • Preparation and attending preliminary hearing
  • Taking and drafting witness statements and agreeing contents
  • Reviewing and preparing bundle of documents
  • Agreeing list of issues
  • General case management
  • Preparation and attendance at final hearing

The price will exclude outlays. These are costs that may need to be paid to third parties. These may include:

  • Counsel’s fees – if a decision is made to instruct Counsel to deal with any part of your case
  • Expert witness fees

Note: If you are using this model, you will need to set out further information to help consumers decide which of the levels of complexity their case may fall into. The key stages we have set out are illustrative only and it is for you to decide what work you include under key stages.

3.2.2: Range of prices example 5
Motoring offences

Road traffic matters can be complex and the facts of each case are unique. We would be happy to consult with you at an early stage to discuss your case and to provide further details of the funding options available to you.  

Motoring offences – not guilty plea

The number of hours it will take to deal with a motoring matter where a not guilty plea is made varies greatly and will depend of the specific nature of the offence. Motoring offences can be complex, depending on the specific circumstances.  

Where we undertake your matter on the basis of a not guilty plea, our hourly fee will be

  • £{insert amount} per hour including VAT at 20%.  

This excludes possible outlays. For motoring offences outlays may include fees for expert witnesses, toxicological reports, fees paid to third parties for the provision of information (such as information from motor insurance company), analytical reports (for example mobile phone examination)

We will be able to provide you with an estimate of cost, outlays and the likely number of work hours required following an initial meeting to discuss the details of your case. Any estimate we give will be based upon your instructions and the documents you are able to provide to us at that time. Once we are satisfied that we have all relevant information we will discuss and agree our fee with you.

There may be occasions where other issues arise in your case which were not and could not have been anticipated at the outset. Where additional costs do arise, we will advise you of these at the earliest opportunity.  

Motoring offences – guilty plea – average fee

Where you wish to enter a guilty plea, we will endeavour to provide you with a fixed fee to reflect your particular circumstances. We will agree a fee with you at our first meeting and when we have full details of the offence. Below we have provided an average fee range as a guideline.

Offence                                                             Average fixed fee including VAT at 20%

Careless Driving                                               £{insert amount} - £{insert amount} 
Drink Driving                                                     £{insert amount} - £{insert amount}
Drug Driving                                                      £{insert amount} - £{insert amount}
No Insurance                                                     £{insert amount} - £{insert amount}
Speeding                                                            £{insert amount} - £{insert amount}
Using a Mobile Phone                                      £{insert amount} - £{insert amount}
Driving Whilst Disqualified                              £{insert amount} - £{insert amount}
Dangerous Driving                                            £{insert amount} - £{insert amount}

Our fees will include:

  • taking instructions from you,
  • obtaining all necessary information from the police,
  • obtaining required documentation and reviewing this,
  • providing full advice on plea including any mitigating circumstances,
  • court representation and
  • corresponding with you and all other relevant agencies

It does not include

  • instructing expert witnesses,
  • taking statements from witnesses
  • providing advice / representation on appealing any sentence.
  • work and representation in relation to special reasons / exceptional hardship hearings
  • outlays.

Note: We have provided an indication of the average fee. We will provide you with an estimate of our price following an initial meeting to discuss the circumstances and facts of your case.

3.3 Hourly rate based on fee earner
3.3.1: Hourly rate example 6

Depending on the nature and complexity of your legal matter, the legal work undertaken by us may be completed by one or several members of our legal team.  Below we have set out the hourly charging rates for each of our fee earners.

As a guide the average number of hours on, for example, a divorce matter is (insert average here)

The hourly charge stated includes VAT which is charged at 20%

Fee earner                                         Hourly charging rate (including VAT)

Solicitor Partner                                £{insert amount}
Associate solicitor                             £{insert amount}
Assistant solicitor                              £{insert amount}
Trainee solicitor                                 £{insert amount}
Paralegal                                             £{insert amount}
Traveling rate for all fee earners    £{insert amount}
 
The number of hours spent on your case will be determined by the complexity and the unique circumstances of your case.  We will discuss the likely cost of your case with you at our initial meeting. If additional costs arise due to unforeseen circumstances, we will discuss this with you at the earliest opportunity and we will advise you of any increase in cost that may arise.

The hourly rate does not include any outlays that may be required.  These are variable depending on the nature of the case.  We will discuss what these may be at our initial meeting.

 

For services which are more bespoke, or are delivered in stages, alternative forms of disclosure may be possible, such as setting out the likely price of each stage. Each stage should be clear of what work is included within that stage and the cost to the client attached.

 Stage 1 - Initial stage
  • Initial meeting with you
  • Review your documentation
  • Providing advice on legal position
  • Taking your instructions
  • Writing to respondent employer

{£insert amount} Could be either fixed price or hourly rate

Stage 2 - Early conciliation before Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). Agreement may be reached and matter completed
  • Liaising with Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) on your behalf
  • Representation and negotiating at ACAS
  • Providing legal advice should conciliation fail.

{£insert amount} Could be either fixed price or hourly rate

Stage 3 –submission of claim to Employment Tribunal- where early conciliation has been unsuccessful
  • Preparing and submit claim to employment tribunal
  • Preparing a schedule of loss
  • Representation at preliminary hearing
  • Drafting of witness statements
  • Reviewing documents and preparing/agreeing a bundle of documents
  • Exchanging of list and documents
  • Advising on respondents witness statements
  • Agreeing list of issues
  • Miscellaneous correspondence and general case management
  • Any further settlement discussions

{£insert amount} Could be either fixed price or hourly rate

Stage 4 – Final hearing
  • Preparation for Final Hearing
  • Representation before Employment Tribunal

{£insert amount} Could be either fixed price or hourly rate

Our prices are inclusive of VAT charged at 20%.

Our costs do not include outlays.  The outlays for each case will be different and dependent on the circumstances.  We will discuss the outlay with you and provide you with an estimate cost at our initial meeting.

Potential outlays will be:

  • Expert Witness
  • Cost of Counsel- should the matter be complex.  We will advise you on this at the initial meeting.

 

 

Price Transparency Guidance Q&A

Read our Q&A to find out more about publishing pricing information for legal services