The Issue – Transparency and visibility
The Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Legal Ombudsmen make it clear to law firms fees must be clear and transparent and clients of all types must understand what they are paying, why they are paying it and when they are paying.
With the regulators requiring solicitors to be transparent on their fees and ensure their clients understand what they are being charged, how and why do these issues arise.
Law Firms will be very careful (as a rule) to ensure that their terms of engagement will clearly confirm the basis upon which legal fees will be charged, the hourly rates (or fixed fees) that will apply and when and to whom. Also when clients should pay the fees and the frequency. Bills will be raised and should provide the necessary detail for the client to assess the costs and agree them for payment.
With all of this activity why is criticism levied at law firms and why do clients raise concerns over the level of fees. Issue will often arise from (to name a few):-
- A lack of understanding of how the fees are calculated, despite an explanation
- Too much time being spent on an issue which the client does not consider to be complex or simply does not warrant the time spent.
- Junior staff taking time to address a matter where an experienced practitioner may charge more but would resolve the issue quicker
- An unreasonable expectation from the client on what time should be charged
- Not knowing what is ‘on and off’ the clock
- Fees being disproportionate to the value of the case or issue being dealt with
There are a myriad of reasons some of which are justified and others are not but a solution has to be found.
Overall, the issue is most likely to arise from a lack of transparency and visibility with law firms often reluctant or simply unable to provide their clients with a window into case activity which would give the client the ability to see case transactions at a detailed level through the duration of the case. For a law firm to operate with true transparency why shouldn’t a client be able to see up to date time entries and action on their legal matter and as necessary interact with law firms as issues arise. The approach of billing quarterly, annually or end of case denies the client and the law firm to interact over fees on an ongoing basis. The fees increase, the client is unaware and the bill arrives which is where the problems often stems from.
A collaborative and transparent approach will and must avoid these issues. A more sophisticated client who understands the legal process will not be seeking to ‘nit pick’ over the time entries and create ongoing issues and tension between the law firm, through provision of transparency both the law firm and the client can work to understand and control legal fees to prevent issues before they arise.
Whilst this would not be possible or practical for all types of clients those who are spending hundreds of £1000’s or millions in legal fees should insist on visibility and law firms should be willing to provide it. Fixed and capped fees is not practical or appropriate for certain types of law but efficiency, transparency and understanding is. Clients should demand it and law firms should willingly provide it.
LHQ provides a solution to both the purchasers of legal services and the provider of legal services. It provides an integrated software solution that sits between the client and the law firm receiving information on time recording and case activity and reporting through an easy to understand dashboard with bespoke reporting that deliver immediate, up to date and transparent information.
Whether you are buyer of legal services or a provider the LHQ software delivers the solution for both law firms and their clients.
For more information or to arrange an exploratory workshop on how LHQ can benefit your organisation please contact Michelle Allfrey on 0203 637 01950 or firstname.lastname@example.org