The SQM Delivery Partnership – the Legal Services Commission’s national auditing body set up to conduct Specialist Quality Mark (SQM) audits in England and Wales – has reported that 888 legal providers have completed SQM audits in the first 7 months of 2012, writes Stuart Lee. These providers are likely to be conducting public-funded work to varying degrees and therefore can rest assured that despite facing an uncertain future in relation to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act and future commissioning they have a quality standard in place without need of review until 2015.
During this time legal providers may wish to consider converting their SQM to Lexcel. The LSC will allow this. On the face of it this might not seem like a priority or indeed an unnecessary expense, but they should ask whether the SQM is giving them the framework and assurance they desire. As they face uncertainty and change it could be that Lexcel will assist with this process, giving them, clients and indemnity insurer’s confidence that both their private and public funded work falls within a quality framework, particularly as their publicly funded work could reduce.
Lexcel will help providers demonstrate the key requirements of outcome-focussed regulation including having an appropriate risk strategy and could help with gaining a competitive edge. The more regular reviews Lexcel demands will help providers to not take their eye off the ball and keep a focus. The re-accreditation rate of Lexcel practices is well over 90% after three years, legal providers could ask themselves would they apply for a re-accreditation against the SQM if this was not mandatory requirement for their funding and is it adding value to their practice?