Changes to the Specialist Quality Mark

Sian Frampton 06-07-2022

The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) are making changes to the Specialist Quality Mark (SQM) Standard from the 1st October 2022.

The new SQM Standard will apply to all applications for a desktop audit and requests for a full audit made after 1st October 2022.

What’s New?

There are 6 new requirements:

Section A1.1 Business Plan – A new requirement has been added to make sure organisations have internal procedures in place to ensure clear lines of communication. This must as a minimum include the following:

  • An internal communications plan; and
  • A regular cycle of team meetings.

Section A4.1 Safeguarding Policy – A new requirement has been added requiring organisations to have a written safeguarding policy in place setting out the procedures that are in place to keep children, young people and vulnerable adults safe and respond to any safeguarding concerns.

Section C1.4 Modern Slavery Legislation – A new requirement has been added to ensure that organisations take steps to identify whether there is any action they need to take to comply with modern slavery legislation.

Section C2.1 Financial Responsibilities – A new requirement has been added to ensure that organisations covered by Part 3 of the Criminal Finances Act 2017 have procedures in place to prevent enabling of criminal tax evasion by associated persons.

C2.5 Anti-Money Laundering Policy – A new requirement has been added to ensure that organisations that are required to comply with the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 have an appropriate Anti-Money Laundering Policy in place.

F6.1 Information handling – A new requirement has been added to ensure that organisations have in place procedures to ensure client data is kept secure at all times and to protect the personal data from unauthorised or unlawful processing, accidental loss, destruction or damage and to maintain the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information.


Of course, most firms will already maintain some of the above requirements as they are mandatory for SRA compliance and/or other Quality Standards, such as Lexcel and CQS etc. However, there are some interesting additions to the SQM Standard, for example a Safeguarding Policy and Modern Slavery Legislation.

What should Publicly Funded Firms do?


As the new requirements come into force on the 1st October 2022, firms should:

  • Review their existing LAA policies plans and procedures and update those that require it.
  • Check the 2022 LAA requirements and identify, draft, and implement any new policies plans and procedures.
  • Check client care and terms of business letters to ensure they contain the new requirements.
  • Check all LAA forms and precedents, such as Client and Matter Risk Assessment forms to ensure they include the new requirements.
  • Arrange training for all relevant LAA personnel to ensure they understand the new requirements.

The summary of changes can be viewed here:

We hope you found this article useful.

If you require any assistance in relation to this or other Quality Standards/Compliance issues, please contact us: