The Speciality Quality Mark (SQM) is owned by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA). This Quality Assurance Standard must be obtained by firms that are not LEXCEL Accredited and hold either a Criminal Contract or Civil Contract. The Standard is usually applied to Legal Aid work only, as opposed to LEXCEL which requires the whole practice to be accredited.
The SQM does not contain a Risk Management Section and the audit usually happens every three years, unlike the LEXCEL Audit which occurs annually.
The SQM has not, for a number of years been updated by the LAA but significant changes came into force from the 1st of October 2022.
All SQM firms therefore need to start implementing the changes now so that they have the necessary policies and procedures in place, in good time for their next audit. If they wait and leave it until just before the next audit, they will not have time to gather the evidence required under the updated standard.
For example, firms now need to have an internal communications plan and a regular cycle of team meetings.
Firms also must have in place appropriate policies in relation to the following:
- Modern Slavery
- Criminal Tax Evasion
- Anti-Money Laundering
- Information Handling
So, contact us soon to help you implement these new policies.