Transparency in the legal sector: what does this mean for law firm websites?

Debbie Lawrenson
  • Debbie Lawrenson
  • Head of Digital

You’re probably familiar with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) study that came out at the end of last year. The study’s conclusions were that competition in legal services is not working well for individual consumers and small businesses. In particular, there is not enough information available on price, quality and service, to help those who need legal support to choose the best option.

The CMA set out a package of measures to tackle the issues raised. A key part of these is for law firms to be more transparent across all areas of their work, so that customers can better navigate the market and get value for money. The implementation of these changes will be overseen by the Legal Services Board, which will report regularly on progress.

So are there any implications for law firm web design? Yes there are. And it’s actually good news.

What makes good web design for law firms?

For many individual consumers and small businesses seeking legal advice or services, a solicitor or law firm website will be their first port of call. The content of each law firm’s website will be scrutinised in order help the client in making a choice as to which firm to use.

Dealing with legal issues can be daunting for the layman, so transparency in your website isn’t just about meeting the CMA guidelines; it’s also about giving the kind of straightforward information that builds client confidence and wins you business. Transparency can be a brilliant marketing tool and a valuable part of a law firm’s brand identity.

Transparency of pricing

The CMA study has created a requirement for solicitors and law firms to display information on pricing. This would include publishing pricing information for particular services online. At the moment only 17% of firms do so.

Why is it that so many law firms are a little foggy when it comes to price information? We all know that legal services aren’t usually cheap, so perhaps some firms feel that publishing prices could be intimidating to potential clients. But it’s more likely that it’s just one of those sector traditions that is part of the culture of the business, dating back to a time when it was considered, well, vulgar to talk about money.

 

The fact is that transparency of pricing is good for business.

Any retailer will tell you that goods that don’t have the price clearly marked sell less well than those with pricing clearly on display. Think about it – when you engage a company or individual to carry out some work, are you more likely to go with the business that is upfront on the costs or the one that ums and ahhs and fudges a bit?

The trouble for law firms is that prices can vary from client to client, depending on the job. However, you can still give clear pricing on your website.

For example, many solicitors and law firms offer fixed fees for things like conveyancing, wills, probate and powers of attorney. If that’s the case, then spell them out on your website, giving the conditions of the price and showing the range.

The same applies to other services. While there may be a range of prices, depending on the client requirements, you can still give clear indications as to what a price might be. What is your hourly rate, for example? Can you give a typical range for a particular service? You will be forwarding this information to clients in the form of quotes, so you can adapt the information that you already use and incorporate it into your web design.

Visibility of client reviews and feedback

The CMA requirements also include transparency in the areas of service, redress and regulatory status.

This should be fairly straightforward to incorporate into law firm website design, but as with pricing, few companies do so.

You should explain in clear language exactly what customers can expect from you. It’s important not to obscure what’s happening in the language of the legal profession. Talk professionally, but unambiguously to your clients, via your website. Work with your creative agency to make sure that your language is not bound up in terms that might be confusion to clients.

Transparency of service also includes enabling potential clients to get feedback from existing clients, in the form of customer reviews online. If you’re doing a good job then you shouldn’t be fearful of customer reviews – they can be a valuable part of your marketing strategy, especially if you interact well with them online. It’s a very effective way for you to show expertise and customer care and a very good way of building brand identity and securing new business.

Actually, this is a great opportunity

If you’re now sighing deeply at the prospect of another layer of regulation, then you’re missing out on the fact that the package of measures from the CMA is actually a brilliant marketing opportunity. It’s pushing you to take action that will build your corporate identity and create new business, through valuable content and web design that’s giving customers what they want.

According to the CMA, clients MUST be able to make an informed choice through the ability to make clear comparisons between different law firms. Get your web design right, incorporating the new standards, and the customer is more likely to choose your law firm.