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Legal fees investigation shows disparities between law firms

8th Apr 2016

An investigation into lawyers’ fees has revealed large disparities between firms, with the cheapest charging £250 for conveyancing and the most expensive £3,200 for the same freehold sale. Other wide disparities included costs for an uncontested divorce involving children, where the cheapest firm charged £150 and the most expensive £17,000.

The figures come from research commissioned by the Legal Services Board (LSB), which recommends consumers look around and consider hiring solicitors from outside London and the south-east, where legal services are more expensive.

The survey was based on 1,506 telephone interviews carried out between November 2015 and January 2016. Respondents were asked to provide prices on specific scenarios within distinct legal areas: conveyancing, divorce or wills, lasting power of attorney and estate administration.

Senior judges have repeatedly identified the high cost of lawyers’ fees and cuts to legal aid as being responsible for a lack of access to justice for those who are not wealthy.

The LSB investigation found that fixed fees are becoming more common than the traditional procedure of allowing lawyers to charge by the hour.

Neil Buckley, the LSB’s chief executive, said that the 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,” he 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.”

Buckley also noted that “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.”