Law Society releases guideline fees to aid uncertain solicitors

A PLAN to introduce guideline fees for solicitors doing non-contentious work has been drawn up by Robert Sayer, the deputy vice-president of the Law Society.

Under the plans, details of which were circulated to members of the Law Society's council last week, local law societies would publish a guide for clients as to how long a “reasonably competent solicitor” should take to perform basic non-contentious work. The timescale will be based on surveys undertaken by the Government and the Legal Aid Board.

It will also show the regional “fair hourly rate”, derived from the rate allowed by each local county court in taxation.

The Law Society has shied away from publishing standard fees in the past over fears about breaching competition law and angering consumer groups.

Last year the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) scuppered a plan for standard fees to be included in a Standard Mortgage Instruction with mortgage lenders.

However, The Lawyer understands that the OFT would not object to Sayer's idea.

Sayer said that the plan was prompted by a Law Society customer focus review, which highlighted one firm in Cornwall which prepared a standard will for £20. In his letter he says: “Many solicitors simply don't know what to charge. How do we give them the confidence to charge fees which are fair to them and the client?”

Russell Wallman, head of policy at the Law Society, said: “Personally, I think it sounds like a good idea.”