Members of the LawNet network are taking a dual approach to quality management to support compliance and cut audit requirements
Leading law firm network LawNet has become the first in the sector to offer dual quality accreditation to ISO 9001 and Lexcel standards, in a move designed to cut costs and resources for its members.
The LawNet dual accreditation route has been developed to offer firms efficiencies where Lexcel is a requirement in public funded work or for tendering purposes. All members of the network must achieve the LawNet ISO 9001 quality standard within 24 months of joining, with ongoing six-monthly assessments.
Now the firms can also opt for Lexcel assessment at the same time as their regular ISO audit, cutting audit times dramatically.
At Oxley & Coward Solicitors LLP in Rotherham, practice manager Peter Hedley said: “The Lexcel standard is becoming increasingly common as a requirement in tenders and we also wanted to avoid having multiple audits every year to keep our family and criminal legal aid work. We found the dual ISO/Lexcel audit process very easy and knowing we will have just two audits to manage each year is the real bonus. There were very few things in Lexcel that we weren’t already doing, but it helped us to focus on meeting the demands of the SRA handbook and OFR.”
Another firm that has achieved the dual accreditation is Parrott & Coales LLP in Aylesbury. Debbie Rymer, quality coordinator said: “We could not renew our family legal aid contract without Lexcel or other external auditing, and we expected that Lexcel would open the door to new work streams in the public sector and with other bodies that now demand this as a standard.”
She added: “We welcome audits because we use them to improve the way we work, but streamlining any audit process can only be good. “
John Thomas, chief executive of LawNet said: “One of our main objectives as an organisation is to help our firms deliver high quality legal services. We need to make things as simple as possible for them, so they can concentrate on fee earning.
“We are the only group that can offer dual accreditation in this way, with our dual accredited firms having just one audit annually for each accreditation. Devising the dual accreditation has been a complex process from our side, and it has taken some time to put it in place, but our firms will benefit as it will mean far less resources to achieve and maintain the standard, as well as giving another string to their bow in securing work.”
Thomas added: “A number of firms had been asking for this and it’s win win all round, as the Law Society will have more firms going for Lexcel accreditation, and they will be firms that truly understand quality.”
Also coming on line from LawNet shortly is an online portal designed to help firms manage the requirements of the SRA Handbook and Outcomes-Focussed Regulation (OFR) which has been described as providing real tools for firms to use day-to-day.
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Notes to Editor:
The combined income of the 67 firms comprising LawNet is currently in excess of £250m – equivalent to a UK Top 15 law firm – with members ranging from £2m to £20m turnover.
Independent research shows LawNet is most highly valued by members for delivering in six key areas – training, networking, PII, business development, marketing and compliance. It currently places some £1.2bn worth of PI cover alone for members each year, which helps stabilise premiums for firms.
Each year LawNet delivers over 60 CPD accredited learning events at venues throughout the UK, covering a wide range of technical legal updates, practice management and business development topics, including a leading-edge strategic leadership and management development programme. All the learning days are CPD accredited, many are provided as a free service within membership, and the member-defined programme ensures that topics tackle key issues affecting that particular area of practice.
All LawNet firms must achieve ISO 9001:2008 LawNet Quality Standard certification within two years of joining, and securing and maintaining that accreditation is a condition of membership. Through a unique agreement with the Law Society, firms can also secure and hold the Lexcel practice management standard and benefit from a simplified dual auditing process for the two marks, with the independent assessment delivered through LawNet.