Quality standards such as Lexcel, Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS), the new Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS) or the Specialist Quality Mark (SQM) are becoming increasingly important to demonstrate a level of credibility and quality assurance. Lexcel or SQM accreditation is now mandatory for any firm undertaking working under an LAA contract. Most lenders are making CQS membership a pre-requisite for panel application.
Achieving a quality standard has a number of potential benefits for your firm:
- Membership of lender panels (CQS)
- A potential reduction in PII premium
- More efficient risk management systems and procedures which can reduce complaints and claims against your firm
- Low SRA risk rating
- Improved practice management standards and consistently high service levels
- Contracts for publicly funded work (Lexcel and SQM)
- Improved image
- Additional marketing opportunities
- Increased performance and profitability
Whilst all of the quality schemes require firms to have risk management and compliance systems, policies and procedures in place, none of them address all the requirements of the SRA Standards and Regulations. When we work with a firm to achieve or retain membership/accreditation to one of the quality schemes, we ensure that the systems, policies and procedures we develop for the firm also meet the requirements of the Standards and Regulations. Similarly, we have worked with a number of firms where we have first put in place effective compliance systems, policies and procedures and then built on these by adding the relevant practice management tools and procedures necessary for a successful application. Preparation for a quality scheme application can also take place at the same time as ensuring compliance with the SRA Standards and Regulations.
We can also conduct mock audits to assess your current systems, policies and procedures and help you with any corrective action required.
As the Law Society’s practice management standard, Lexcel provides a national benchmark of good practice. Achieving Lexcel means a firm is recognised as offering excellent client service and managing risk effectively, at the same time making a favourable impression on professional indemnity insurers.
The Lexcel standard can be applied to and achieved by any size of firm, from sole practitioners to top 100 firms. Assessment is simple, transparent and flexible.
Lexcel has now been recognised as a suitable alternative to the SQM certification which is now an essential requirement of providing publicly funded work.
Legal Compliance Services guides you through the process of preparing for Lexcel, identifying where there are gaps or deficiencies, integrating your existing systems and procedures with new ones to ensure comprehensive coverage. We support firms at every stage of the process up to and beyond successful application.
Preparation for Lexcel can be done as an integrated part of the work in ensuring compliance with the Standards and Regulations.
Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS)
Membership to the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) can enhance the reputation of any conveyancing firm and provide reassurance about their integrity, practice standards and efficiency to clients, regulators, lenders and insurers and assists in deterring fraud. The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) has indicated that lenders are likely to view CQS membership as a pre-requisite for panel application. CQS membership has other advantages such as a potential reduction in PII premium.
The CQS scheme has been recently reviewed. Significant additions and changes to the practice management standard have been made. All existing CQS accredited firms must comply with the new practice management standard as of 1st May 2019.
The Law Society is conducting a programme of audit visits to CQS members and has increased desk-based monitoring activities to check compliance
Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS)
The Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme is a new quality standard to enable SRA regulated firms that undertake will drafting, probate and estate administration work to demonstrate their commitment to high standards of competence and client service.
Applicant firms will undergo a rigorous assessment by the Law Society and will be subject to random audits and annual reviews to maintain the new status.
Specialist Quality Mark (SQM)
Compliance with either Lexcel or SQM is a requirement for firms with an LAA contract. The standards have many similarities as well as key differences and Legal Compliance Services can provide firms with all the information they need in choosing the most suitable standard for them or guide them through the transition from SQM to Lexcel.
We have consultants experienced in the SQM standard (including a current SQM Associate Auditor) and can help firms prepare for the audit in a variety of ways, including the training of staff and document reviews, as well as assisting firms in addressing the corrective actions required as a result an SQM audit.
We have now received our Lexcel report and I am delighted to say with thanks to LCS we passed with flying colours! In fact we received 23 areas of outstanding business the most FWJ have ever had! So a massive thank you to you and your team for helping get this amazing result, I am delighted.
Nicola Singleton, Practice Manager, Francis Wilks & Jones