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SRA commit to sharing solicitor data with comparison websites

In an announcement late last month, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) announced its commitment to sharing its register of solicitors and law firms with comparison websites in an effort to make information on law practitioners more accessible, and to allow customers to make more informed choices regarding their representation.

Price comparison websites have become increasingly popular since their inception at the turn of the century because they allow customers looking for car, travel or home insurance to compare the market easily and find the best prices. However, a website comparing the legal services offered by different law firms has yet to be fully embraced by the industry, with the Legal Service Consumer Panel stating only “2% of respondents have used a comparison website to help them choose a legal service”.

This is set to change near the end of 2015 when the SRA expects development of an online register of regulated firms to be implemented, though a letter published by Executive Director Crispin Passmore states that plans that will allow comparison websites to access some data as early as this Christmas are currently being devised. These plans are said to include a “data extract”, which would include details regarding any disciplinary action a firm may have faced previously, along with information about the size of the firm, and possibly at some point customer complaints.

Major step towards bringing transparency to clients

Though the sharing of data is good news, providing transparency to consumers seeking legal services, it may not initially prove beneficial for all law firms.

A key source of information collected by comparison websites is client feedback, in the form of reviews and ratings based upon the quality of the service provided, and the speed at which their case is resolved. While comparison websites would appear to offer a level playing field for most firms, firms that have neglected to collect this data could find themselves at a disadvantage in comparison with those that have.

Ultimately, this will lead to firms focusing on providing the best services at competitive prices to secure positive client feedback, leading to a far better experience for the client, as well as increasing pressure upon firms performing poorly to do better.

The SRA’s commitment to sharing solicitor data is a response to a call from the Legal Services Consumer Panel to offer online registers a greater amount of useful information on solicitors. Indeed, the Panel has made the publication of data a key aim since its formation following the Legal Services act, as Panel Chair Elisabeth Davies confirms:

“The quest for open data has been at the heart of the Panel’s policies since 2011. Transparency is absolutely essential for consumers if they’re going to be able to make informed choices, protect themselves from harm and have confidence in the regulators.”

The SRA is just one example of a legal regulator working to provide information to comparison websites. The Intellectual Property Regulation Board (IPReg) have also expressed their intention to share solicitor data, while the Council for Licensed Conveyers published a spreadsheet containing data on their website this past May.

Here at Fonseca & Partners, we pride ourselves on offering a wide-range of high-quality legal services, and place client care and customer service at the forefront of our business. If you’ve suffered a personal injury and require expert guidance, speak with one of our professional solicitors today by contacting us on 01495 303124, or email us directly at enquiries@fonsecalaw.co.uk.