Thousands could be paying over the odds for legal advice


Consumers urged to shop around nationally for the best deals on divorce, wills, and conveyancing

New Legal Services Board (LSB) research shows there is significant regional variation in the price of legal advice across England and Wales for what are fundamentally the same services.

The research explores the cost of common legal scenarios related to divorce; buying and selling a home; and wills, trusts, and probate – an estimated 560,000 people pay for these services each year. It shows that legal advice is generally 20% cheaper in the North of England and 17% cheaper in Wales. Firms based in London are 33% more expensive than firms based elsewhere. The research also shows that there is no price difference between law firms delivering services remotely and those providing them face to face.

The table below shows the mean price of six of the 15 legal scenarios explored by the research across England and Wales.

North

(North West, North East, Yorkshire and Humberside)

Midlands

(West Midlands, East Midlands)

South West (West, South West)South East (South, South East, East)LondonWales
Selling a freehold property£596£663£798£788£923

 

£614
Buying a leasehold property£907£953£1,121£1,054£1,235£1,012
Preparing an individual standard will£163£197£212£214£408£150
Assistance obtaining Grant of Probate£782£867£1,071£1,167£1,722£718
An uncontested divorce requiring a full legal service£605£760£667£808£908£629
A more complex divorce involving disagreement over assets£2,397£2,993£3,156£3,040£4,395£2,032

The LSB is encouraging everyone who experiences a legal problem to shop around as they could save hundreds of pounds. The LSB’s legal needs survey shows that 55% of people seek professional advice for their legal problems, but only 21% shop around for it.

Dr Helen Phillips, Chair of the Legal Services Board, said:

“Whether buying a home, getting divorced, or making a will, we encourage people to shop around to find a good value deal that meets their needs. Unless they shop around, people risk paying far more than they need to. Where people don’t feel they need to deal with a lawyer face to face, they could make considerable savings by using providers in parts of the country where prices are cheaper.”

A 2016 Competition and Market Authority (CMA) report on the legal services market in England and Wales found that competition in legal services for individual consumers and small businesses was not working well. One of the key recommendations was that lawyers and law firms should be more transparent and upfront about the cost of their services. New regulatory requirements on price transparency in some parts of the market came into force in December 2018 and the LSB says regulators of legal services must more actively enforce compliance with their transparency rules.

The new research published today finds that 52% of divorce providers now display prices on their websites compared to 22% in 2017. In conveyancing, 73% of providers now display prices on their website compared to only 11% in 2017.  59% of providers of wills, trusts and probate services now display prices on their website compared to 21% in 2017.

The research also finds that providers whose service is entirely bespoke and/or who compete on service were on average 18% more expensive than providers whose service is entirely standard and/or who compete entirely on price.

There are quality marks but providers with a quality mark were not, on average, more expensive than those without. Better information for consumers on the quality of providers may help stimulate greater price competition, so it is important that regulators find solutions to help consumers compare on quality as well as price.

Dr Helen Phillips, Chair of the Legal Services Board, added:

“People often need legal help when they’re at their most vulnerable – they may be bereaved or dealing with the end of a relationship. Legal services regulators must more actively enforce compliance with their transparency rules and legal providers must design services that meet people’s needs. This includes making their prices clearer upfront to give people certainty about the costs they will face and make it easier to compare prices.

“The coronavirus pandemic has brought into sharp focus just how important it is that everyone is able to access legal services. The number of people facing problems related to health, housing, employment, debt, or dealing with end-of-life arrangements, is soaring. It is vital that everyone can get the support they need easily and understand the legal choices available to them.”

For independent information about legal issues and lawyers, visit the Legal Choices website.

-ENDS

For more information, contact Paul Nezandonyi at the Legal Services Board – paul.nezandonyi@legalservicesboard.org.uk – 07884 498799.

About the prices research

  • The prices research was commissioned jointly by the Legal Services Board, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Ministry of Justice. It involved interviewing 1,500 legal businesses in England and Wales spread across different provider types, as well as geographically. Interviews took place between 16 December 2019 and were completed on 30 March 2020.

About the Legal Services Board

  • The Legal Services Board oversees regulators of legal services in England and Wales.
  • The Legal Services Board oversees 10 regulators, who in turn regulate individual lawyers (e.g. solicitors, barristers, legal executives, patent and trademark attorneys, costs lawyers and notaries) and legal firms.

About the Legal Services Board’s legal needs survey

  • The legal needs survey was conducted for the Legal Services Board and the Law Society by YouGov.
  • A nationally representative sample of 28,633 members of the public gave information about 34 different types of legal issues based upon data collected online between February and March 2019.

The Competition and Market Authority’s Legal Services Market Study


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