What is the CMA Review?
The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) is the UK’s primary competition and consumer authority. It is an independent non-ministerial government department with responsibility for carrying out investigations into mergers, markets and the regulated industries and enforcing competition and consumer law. See:- gov.uk/government/organisations/competition-and-markets-authority
In 2018 the CMA published its report following a review of the legal industry.
See the Gov.UK summary:- gov.uk/cma-cases/legal-services-market-study
The review in respect of the legal industry was issued in mid-late 2018.
The wide ranging review had a focus upon the way that law firms publicise themselves and their services that they offer to consumers.
The report reached conclusions which led to obligatory regulations being imposed upon all law firms – i.e. the providers of legal services to consumers.
Accordingly the various regulatory bodies issued their own guidance to the law firms which the particular body regulates. It follows that the guidance issued was broadly consistent and that you can expect your lawyer to observe the principles, regardless of your specific choice of legal representation. Licensed Conveyancers are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), in the same way that solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
As a result of the CMA review DRA Conveyancing Ltd, along with other regulated law firms, are legally and professionally obliged to review our publicity and websites to ensure full compliance with the principles established in the CMA review.
As of December 6th 2018 all law firms must so comply. DRA Conveyancing Ltd does of course do so comply. Visitors to this website, which has been heavily updated in November 2018, are invited to peruse the following information carefully. The information below is designed to help you as a “consumer” decide from whom to “buy” legal services. Please also review the section of our website entitled Our Services & Fees as this is an area that we are expressly required to draw to your attention.
If you remain at all uncertain as to why you might choose this firm, above any other firm locally (or nationally) please do telephone the firm’s principle Derek Adkins, or any of its legal team (details of our team are set out in the website section 'Meet the Team' ) to enquire further as to your own personal requirements.
What did the CMA review conclude?
In a nutshell, and quite critically, the review found too many instances where firms failed to provide to Consumers the opportunity to make “an informed choice” when choosing a law firm.
Too often, it was felt that law firms displayed a lack of clarity as to costs information. A conclusion drawn was that there may be a lack of transparency, particularly as to costs. This failing on the part of many law firms might obstruct the consumer’s choice.
In the context of a law firm, you deserve to have an “informed choice”, as you decide in whom to entrust the responsibility for your legal matter. Put simply, lawyers have been told to make it easier for you to select legal representation.
To use an example, you may be buying or selling a house, and you may be a person who prizes above all a local, face to face service, dealing with someone you can speak with.
Alternatively, you may be costs focused, seeking out the lowest cost service, and being prepared to accept a lower level of personal service.
A further driver for you may be that you are “technically savvy” and be quite prepared to search out online for remote providers of legal services. You may be completely comfortable dealing remotely with your Conveyancing lawyer.
Why use DRA Conveyancing Ltd?
At DRA Conveyancing we can offer the best combination of service delivery to you. We are happy to meet with you in our offices, or to liaise in writing, and/or email, throughout, as you wish. In addition we utilise a comprehensively featured Case Management systems which allows – if you so wish – a means of securely exchanging with us letters & documents, during the course of your transaction.
Why use a Licensed Conveyancer?
Why should you use a Licensed Conveyancer, as opposed to a Solicitor? Again this is a choice, but in reality, when needing Conveyancing, or Wills, or Probate, or when you want to put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place, there really is no difference whatsoever. You will expect, and should receive, the same level of expert care from any fully qualified and regulated legal professional.
Derek Adkins is in fact both a qualified Solicitor and a Licensed Conveyancer, though he practices as the latter and our office & staff in Mirfield are regulated only by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC).
Licensed Conveyancers are specialists in their field of Conveyancing, Wills, Probate, Powers of Attorney & related legal matters. In dealings with our clients (locally & further afield) we know that these are the types of legal services which cover virtually 100% of the enquiries that we receive.
It follows that you can be assured, if you use a Licensed Conveyancer, that the lawyer who works for you does this kind of work all of the time. We will not be “sidetracked” by Court or Litigation cases, or by crime, employment law, or family law matters (although we can happily refer you to other trusted local firms if you need such assistance). What this means to you, in terms of service, is that your lawyer will be focused on your case and will not be “out in Court” when you call.
Accreditations & Security
Within our website, at the foot of the page, you will find certain “secure badges”. One relates to our regulatory body, The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), and the other to the Trading Standards Institute (TSI, formerly the Office of Fair Trading.) By clicking on those links you can satisfy yourself as to our credentials. In addition you will notice that our website itself is secure, being protected as is denoted by the https prefix to www.dralc.co.uk.
Costs Matters …….or, Costs Matter?
Does a Consumer choose a lawyer based on price?
Surveys tell us that only 5% of consumers do.
Price is of course important, and all lawyers have long been professionally obliged to provide a client with costs information (and a likely estimate of the case duration) at the outset of any matter. There is a separate section of this website where you will find specific information on costs (see Our Services & Fees) You will also note that, in respect of Conveyancing matters, you can get a firm quotation by providing basic details and we will immediately email to you a firm, itemised listing of the likely costs in your own intended transaction (see Instant Quote).
Some firms provide costs information better, or more clearly than others; whichever, the problem is that the consumer will often have selected, or will have committed, to that law firm BEFORE the consumer is truly made aware of what the end bill is likely to be. This is because you will have been required to “sign up” by accepting the law firm’s terms and conditions. Such “T&C” nowadays comes with quite a fulsome pack of documents. This is because we, as regulated lawyers, are required via our professional obligations and due to legal regulations, to cover many issues as part of our “compliance” rules. We must address with you as to Anti-money laundering rules, identification, complaints procedures, data protection, etc. We often almost feel a need to apologise for the breadth of information that we have to give to you – but this is the way of world nowadays.
You can be assured, however, that all such measures are designed for your protection. When dealing with a regulated lawyer you will benefit from that lawyer “following the rules”, backed by a comprehensive professional indemnity insurance (of £2,000,000 per claim).
Returning to the question of costs transparency, it would be worrying indeed to think that there may be times that a law firm would consciously present misleading (or incomplete) information as to costs, but sadly this has been found to have occurred in some cases.
As a result, and following the CMA Review, lawyers must from 6th December 2018 provide costs information within the firm’s publicity materials and websites. At DRA Conveyancing Ltd our website carries a quote tool which allows a potential client a way to get a fully complete cost estimate. The tool is simple to use and covers sales, purchases, and remortgages. Some types of property may have individual issues which result in a deviation from an estimate, and our tool allows you to very easily state if you are a first time buyer, or are using a mortgage, or if a “new-build” home is being purchased. Accordingly, in the vast majority of cases the price you are quoted WILL be the exact price that you pay.
As well as telling you what our legal fees are, we work very hard to quote to you the exact sum you will need to pay in disbursements. “Disbursements” are monies which we pay out to others, on your behalf, such as Land Registry fees.
If you do go-ahead and ask us to open a file for your matter, you will still not actually be committed to using us. What will happen is that you will receive our written fee and cost estimates with our very first letters to you in any given matter. If you remain content to proceed, having had sight of the entirety of our terms, you would sign certain copies and return them to us by way of formal instruction. Within our T&C, we guarantee that we will not change or alter our fee without having discussed with you and agreeing the reasons behind any alteration.
In a nutshell – at the end of a job, there will be no surprises on your bill!
If your Estate Agent or other Advisor recommends (possibly quite strongly) that you should select a particular lawyer, then it is highly likely that a referral fee is to be paid by the Solicitor or Conveyancer to the agent.
Making such payments is not outside our rules, providing that we inform you of the arrangement. Estate Agents are not under any obligation to inform you of referral fees, but lawyers are.
We at DRA Conveyancing will set out to you if we will be paying any “referral fee” to another party. Commonly such a payment will be made by your lawyer to an Estate Agent or Mortgage/Financial Adviser.
Conveyancers are obliged to inform you, very clearly, exactly what sum has been paid, and to whom. As a principle, and as a small law firm, DRA Conveyancing does NOT set out to compete with the large local firms which often pay a referral fee well into three figures.
Your conveyancer may very often have paid a “referral fee” to another party. Commonly such a payment will be made by your lawyer to an Estate Agent or Mortgage/Financial Adviser.
In reality YOU are paying the referral fee. You should always ask your lawyer whether or not a referral fee is being paid, even if the firm’s initial letter is silent on the point.
Where we do pay a referral fee the typical fee that DRA will pay to a third party such as an estate agent is £50 including VAT, or less than £43 plus VAT. The reason that DRA Conveyancing has this policy is that we have to absorb the cost, ourselves, out of what we know is already a highly competitive legal fee. Bigger firms, or “cheap” online providers, will often use unqualified staff or “case-handlers” for much of the Conveyancing work, to cust costs. We stress that this is not at all “wrong”, because as mentioned above, we do have to recognise that many clients are extremely costs-focused and are fully comfortable in dealing with more remote or less accessible lawyers.
Examples of our Fees
For example, if we act for you in a sale or purchase of a £150,000 house, we will charge you only some £500-£600 as our professional legal fees. These fees relate to various elements of service & advice, which of course varies depending upon certain facts as to the property and the Buyers. We ask you some straightforward questions and provide you with a detailed estimate at the very outset of your transaction. Note that all fees are subject to VAT at 20%. Our base fee is effectively a fixed price, and regardless of the type of transaction, will ALWAYS involve several or many hours of detailed perusal of papers and correspondences, dealing with enquiries, and in delivering to you accurate advice in writing and verbally.
Please use our online estimate service or ask for our detailed estimate to be emailed to you.
Whilst we do have an ‘hourly rate’ in our T&C, in reality it is rarely applied, as most of our cases at DRA Conveyancing are carried out under a fixed price.
How do we at DRALC compete with other providers of legal services?
We compete on Service.
As mentioned above, surveys show that price is not the main factor to a client when choosing a lawyer. A key driver is ‘reputation’, and we work hard to ensure that when we finished a job, the client is satisfied as to the service received.
In any event our legal fees are honest, clear, and competitive. But we will never claim to be “cheap” just to receive your instructions. We firmly believe that consumers of legal services – in particular those involved in such major matters as home sales & purchases, do recognise that their cases should not be entrusted to unqualified or inexperienced conveyancers.
We are fortunate to recive much new work via ‘word of mouth’, and we do invite all clients to complete a very straightfoward assessment of our services, via the extremely well-respected and independently verified Trustpilot (TM) resource. Please take a minute to visit:-
Trustpilot where you will find many recent reviews and our up-to-date TrustScore (4.8/5 at October 2023).
Other Legal Services – Probate, Wills, Power of Attorney
We would not want you to think that we only act in conveyancing matters!
Whilst Conveyancing is an important part of our business offering, we are – in exactly the same way as are solicitors – fully regulated and qualified so as to meet your requirements in the area of Wills, Probate, and Powers of Attorney.
Other sections of our website provide further information concerning these areas of legal practice.
We would also wish to mention that our policy is never to charge for the storage of any of your documents. The vast majority of our Wills clients store their wills with us, as do clients making LPAs and those who wish to have their property deeds retained safely.
All of our fees INCLUDE free storage within our secure premises (our premises are a former Bank!)
What if a Client is Dissatisfied with our service?
All lawyers are obliged to have a complaints procedure which is fully set out within our initial communications to all clients. Our Regulatory Body, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, requires and ensures that our policy is written, and covers several points. There follows an extract from our Terms & Conditions, details which are given to every client at the commencement of every matter.
- A complaint is an oral or written expressions of dissatisfaction in which you inform us that you have suffered (or may suffer) financial loss, distress, inconvenience, or detriment.
- We treat any complaint against this firm or against any individual within the firm very seriously. If at any time whilst we are dealing with your case you have any problems with the service please contact us without delay.
- We will always attempt to resolve any difficulty through discussion with you and we will be happy to use mediation measures (Alternative Dispute Resolution – ADR) in order to avoid complaints escalating unnecessarily.
- In the first instance you should raise the issue with the person handling your case (see above). We will attempt to resolve any complaint as quickly as possible; however we will need to investigate thoroughly and attempt to provide a full response within 7 working days. Should this not be possible then we will acknowledge your complaint within 7 working days, and seek further information from you if necessary. In our acknowledgement we will indicate to you the reasons why we require more time and we will state when we expect to provide you with a detailed response; in any event such detailed written full response will be sent to you within 28 working days of receipt of your complaint.
- Please address all complaints to the following address-: Derek R. Adkins, DRA Conveyancing Ltd., DRA Legal, 138 Huddersfield Road, Mirfield, WF14 8AN. Tel 01924 601043, Fax 01924 918 987.
- In our written full response we will set out clearly our assessment of your complaint and our decision.
- If your complaint is upheld, we will inform you of, and/or offer to you, the remedial action we intend or propose to take, and if such action is agreed we will carry it out as soon as reasonably practicable.
- If a complaint has been investigated through the above complaints procedure and if you remain dissatisfied then the Legal Ombudsman (LEO) can investigate the complaint.
- Unless it agrees there are good reasons not to do so, the Legal Ombudsman will expect you to allow us to consider and respond to your complaint in accordance with the procedure set out above, before they will consider it. Note that LEO is not currently a regulated Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) entity. We ourselves or our insurers may elect to engage in ADR with you. It may be possible to use one of several ADR providers and we do in principle agree to use such a service, in order to best avoid expensive and time consuming court proceedings. For more information on ADR, click on the following link:- Trading Standards UK ADR Approval.
Ultimately, where complaints are not resolved between lawyer and Client, you have a right to complain via the Legal Ombudsman (LeO). See:-
April 2023 - Update
From 1st April 2023 the Legal Ombudsman has revised their existing Scheme Rules, which set out the key rules as to how they resolve complaints.
The main changes relate to:
- A change to the time limits for referring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman.
- Discretion to decline to issue a formal Ombudsman decision, if no substantive comments are provided in response to an investigator’s case decision
- Changes to Ombudsman discretion to dismiss or discontinue a complaint in certain circumstances.
The change to the time limits
Prior to 1st April 2023, the time limit for referring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman was:
- no more than 6 years from the date of the act or omission being complained about, or no more than 3 years from the date when you should have realised that there was cause for complaint, and
- within 6 months of the date of receiving a final written response about the complaint (from the firm/service provider to whom you submitted your complaint).
From 1st April 2023, the time limit is now:
- no later than 1 year from the date of the act or omission being complained about, or no more than 1 year from the date when you should have realised that there was cause for complaint, and;
- within 6 months of the date of receiving a final written response about the complaint (from the firm/service provider to whom you submitted your complaint).
The level of discretion which the Legal Ombudsman will allow to accept ‘out of time’ complaints is changing. Previously the test was “exceptional circumstances”. Now the discretion is to accept complaints in circumstances where the Legal Ombudsman determines it to be fair and reasonable to do so.
Discretion to decline to issue a formal Ombudsman decision, if no substantive comments are provided in response to an investigator’s case decision
From 1st April 2023 the Legal Ombudsman has discretion to consider a complaint to have been resolved on the basis of an investigator’s case decision, if neither party provides a substantive reasons for disagreeing with that decision. If the response received to a case decision is one simply of disagreement, where no substantive reason is provided as to why the party disagrees, the matter will be referred to an Ombudsman who will have discretion to make the decision to close the complaint as having been resolved by way of the investigator’s findings. If those findings recommend that a remedy is payable, then the Legal Ombudsman would expect the service provider to honour that recommendation. If they fail to do so within a defined period of time, then the complainant could then request that the case be passed to an Ombudsman for a decision which can then be enforced through the Courts if necessary.
Changes to Ombudsman discretion to dismiss or discontinue a complaint in certain circumstances
The Scheme Rules allow the Ombudsman discretion to dismiss or discontinue a case where there are compelling reasons to do so. The previous Scheme Rules set out a number of circumstances where that would be the case. From 1st April 2023, the Scheme Rules have been amended to include further circumstances where the Ombudsman can dismiss. Full details are available on the Legal Ombudsman’s website - https://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/
If at any point you are unhappy with the service we provide to you, then please inform us immediately so that we can do our best to resolve the problem for you.
Contact Details for the Legal Ombudsman:-
Tel no: 0300 555 0333, or if you are calling from overseas, please call +44 121 245 3050
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Address: PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ.
- If you make a valid claim against us for a loss arising out of work for which we are legally responsible, and we are unable to meet our liability in full, you may be entitled to claim from the Compensation Fund administered by the Council For Licensed Conveyancers, from whom details can be obtained. Contact details are below.
- We remind you that this practice is regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) – address:- We Work, 131 Finsbury Pavement, London EC2A 1NT.
- The CLC operates a Compensation Fund, to which we contribute. In the highly unlikely event that our own firm’s insurance was not in place, or if it was insufficient, then a claim may be submitted via that scheme. Further details and information can be found via the CLC website, clc-uk.org
Although we would very much hope that you will feel able to follow our Complaints Procedure, your concerns may be raised directly with our regulatory body, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers. See:-
CLC - Reporting Problems
If you were to suffer any significant loss as a result of any failure or negligence on our part you have the assurance that our practice is backed by a comprehensive Professional Indemnity Insurance policy with a limit of £2,000,000 per claim.
We are very hopeful that this article, taken together with the costs and other information to be found on our website, has been helpful to you in deciding whether or not to use DRA Conveyancing Ltd for your legal needs.
If you have any uncertainty whatsoever, please do not hesitate to contact this firm’s principal, Derek Adkins directly on 01924 601043.
Derek Adkins, October 2023