Law Soc approves costs code

The Law Society has approved plans to impose a client care and costs information code on its members, in a bid to clarify the duty of solicitors to provide clients with clear information on costs.

Solicitors are currently required by a written professional standard to provide clear costs information.

But the society standards and guidance committee felt there was confusion as to the scope of the requirement and available sanctions.

Last week council members voted to amend practice rule 15 to include a new code, which will incorporate client care and costs information requirements. The change will need to be approved by the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct before it can come into effect.

Council members refused to put costs information requirements in a practice rule in 1991 and during last week's council debate there was opposition to the move.

Richard Hegarty, chair of the property and commercial services committee, condemned the code as nonsense.

“This is going to cause the profession real concern and problems. The effect will be to drive costs down. It will focus your minds and clients' minds on the question of costs, not the question of service or the question of quality.”

But vice-president Phillip Sycamore warned the council that solicitors could not operate in a vacuum. “We cannot afford to ignore the world in which we live. What we have here is information which is helpful to the profession and clients.”