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Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

LSB: South East-based consumers paying legal services premium

LSB: South East-based consumers paying legal services premium


Firms quote lower prices in deprived areas compared with more affluent areas, across all practice areas

Findings published by the Legal Services Board (LSB) have proven that shopping around for legal services can save a consumer money.

The most commonly used legal services consumers use, such as conveyancing, divorce, wills, power of attorney, and estate administration, were cited as services that varied significantly in their pricing.

Other headline findings showed firms that displayed prices on their websites and/or offered fixed fees tend to be cheaper. However, 76 per cent of firms do not display their prices, while 4 per cent still do not have an online presence.

Fee models

Fixed fees predominated over conveyancing transactions (around eight in ten firms charged in this way), where one in five firms provided clients with an estimate of the total cost, and a very small minority quoted an hourly rate. Around half of the firms interviewed were able to provide conveyancing services remotely.

Fixed fees were also popular in less complex family matters. For example, uncontested divorce cases were found to be mostly settled on a fixed fee basis, with 74 per cent of firms charging in that manner. Uncontested children and complex asset disputes, however, were still found to be mostly charged on an hourly rate basis.

Regional pricing

It will also come as little surprise that those firms based in the South East charged significantly higher prices compared to those located elsewhere in England and Wales.

Firms were found to quote lower prices in deprived areas when compared with the more affluent areas, across all scenario groups.

The average conveyancing cost for the sale and purchase of a freehold property in the South East of England was found to be £1,485, while the same work undertake in Wales or the North cost up to £400 cheaper.

The majority of firms that responded considered that, in most cases, services were not likely to cost customers more than initially quoted. Though, in a third of cases, costs occasionally exceeded that initially estimated.

The LSB's chief executive, Neil Buckley, said: 'This research demonstrates that it really does pay to shop around. For many consumers, substantial savings on commonly purchased legal services - especially those which do not require face to face delivery - can be made by searching the market across England and Wales.

'For consumers in the South East in particular, our research shows that a premium may be paid for direct, locally sourced legal services of the type covered by this report.'

Buckley continued: 'The legal services market is changing and we are seeing numerous signs of innovation as new providers enter the market and existing providers develop their services. But there is still some way to go before all consumers can be confident of finding the legal service they need at a price they can afford.

'Firms who are yet to adapt will have to look at what their competitors are providing. This is a market with huge potential for delivering a better deal for consumers.'

The research also found no significant differences between the prices of alternative business structures and other firms and there was no clear pattern when looking at how prices varied by size of firm.