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Huge rise in fixed fees for family and probate

Will writing and conveyancing still the leaders, consumer panel says

4 June 2013

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There has been a dramatic rise in the number of solicitors offering fixed fees for probate and family work, a report for the legal services consumer panel has found.

Fixed fees for family work grew over the last year from 6 to 26 per cent, and in probate from 12 to 30 per cent, according to the panel's annual tracker report. Fixed fees for housing work rose from 19 to 29 per cent.

The report, by YouGov, is based on research carried out in February this year with a sample of 1,462 people who used legal services in the last two years and a nationally representative group of over 1,700.

Will writing tops the table for fixed fee services, with 70 per cent, followed by conveyancing with almost 60 per cent. Only 10 per cent of personal injury work, where conditional fees dominate, is paid for by fixed fees, and just under 20 per cent of employment.

The overall proportion of legal work carried out under fixed fees grew by only 4 per cent from 38 to 42. As might be expected, 87 per cent of clients instructed on a fixed fee were satisfied with the service they received, compared with 73 per cent of those paying by an hourly rate.

The report indicated that 30 per cent of the population of England and Wales had used a legal service in the past two years, 3 per cent up on last year but one per cent less than 2011.

The number of conveyancing transactions, at 575,000, has almost returned to its 2011 level, but only 2.5 per cent of the public made a personal injury claim, compared with 3.4 per cent in 2011.

"The Legal Ombudsman's report on divorce showed that legal bills in this area can spiral out of control, so it's encouraging to see that one quarter of work is now billed on a fixed fee basis," Elisabeth Davies, chair of the consumer panel, said.

"Fixed fees offer consumers much-needed certainty over the costs they face and it's good to see signs of competition taking hold in this part of the market."

Categorised in:

Family Wills, Trusts & Probate