In his March 2012 report “Costs and customer service in a changing legal services market”, Adam Sampson, the Chief Ombudsman at the Legal Ombudsman (LeO), emphasises that customers are at the centre of what every legal services provider does. The report contains a number of stories in which he identifies that the uncertainty surrounding the cost of legal services generally, law firms’ lack of clear pricing policies and poor customer communication, as being the source of most complaints to LeO. He singles out the traditional practice of charging open-ended hourly rates for special criticism, saying that customers have the right to know in advance what the cost of buying legal services will be.
He has a point. For ten years, Kings Court Trust has been committed to fair, fixed and transparent pricing for its Estate Administration services, meaning that our customers know exactly what the cost of our service will be, before we start work.
Our prices are fair because they are calculated by reference to the actual work that needs to be done by us, and are never calculated by using a percentage of the value of an estate, nor do we charge by the hour.
Our prices are fixed at the start of the work so the family or Executor knows exactly what they will pay. A fixed price from us includes everything needed to complete the work and includes any third party costs such as Court Fees (the term used by solicitors for such costs is "disbursements"), as well as VAT. This price is transparent, as we explain to our client how we have calculated the price, which is principally by examining the complexity of the estate and estimating the amount of time we will need to do the work.
We know that this approach works; it is scrupulously fair to our customers (who appreciate the certainty) and to our business, and there is no question of an unpleasant financial surprise at the end of our work.
Although some organisations claim to offer a fixed fee service, customers should check that all elements of the work, including third party costs, are taken into account in the quote. The quote should be expressed in cash terms, rather than as a percentage of the estate’s value.