Lexcel accredited?

If so have you taken the necessary steps to meet the new Lexcel v5 standard?

Compliance within the legal sector is a hot topic at present. However those working to the Lexcel standard should not forget the changes in the standard that took effect in July 2012. If you haven’t had an audit since, then a review of your policies and procedures is inevitable and no longer something that should simply be put off (or a reminder constantly snoozed on your “task to do”).

We are now 10 months into the new version and with the burden of the SRA’s compulsory COLP and COFA duties it can be easily overlook. However it is important to remember that compliance with v5 is no longer optional. As from the 1st July 2012 it is now mandatory against any assessment. So what are the key changes from v4 to v5?

Well take one guess… it is all about having adequate policies and procedures in place (sound familiar?). However there is more to it than that and the following gives a brief summary of what we view to be significant changes:

1. Structures and Policies


You must now include policies for:

  • outsourced activities, and
  • the avoidance of discrimination and the promotion of equality and diversity.

a) Do you use a third party to provide services that you could provide?

If so you may be outsourcing without realising it! In many cases a straight forward policy providing the following information will suffice:

  • i)  the services outsourced,
  • ii) to whom and their contact details
  • iii) a procedure for checking the quality of the work, and
  • iv) ensuring confidentiality

it will be important to show that you carry out an annual review where services are outsourced, particularly with respect to points iii and iv.

b) Do you promote equality and diversity enough to potential employees, third parties and your existing staff?

If not, make sure that your equal opportunities policy is up to date and seize this opportunity to undertake the required annual review and analysis of your findings.

2) Financial Management

You you must now ensure you have:

  • a time recording procedure to monitor Work in Progress (WIP), and
  • a procedure for billing clients that also deals with managing debts.

Are you actually guilty of having a fantastic system that can produce a number of reports for you but not using the facts and figures to your advantage? This is a key area where many firms fall foul. Do not make the same mistake, instead use these facts and figures guide you in managing your firm.

3) Information Management

The vast majority of practices have a website and so should have a website management policy. In addition where you have staff they may be using social media such as Facebook, Linked In and Twitter. If so you should also have a social media policy. So consider:

a) Are you aware what your website says about you?

b) Are you aware of how many of your employees are tweeting on a regular basis?

Safeguarding your business by detailing your procedures for approval, publishing and removal of website content, and participating in social media activities, will serve you well.

But why not join them and not get left behind? Use of twitter and linked in discussion groups have a proven track record of generating business.

4) People Management

If you employ staff you must have a performance management policy.

How do you review performance and how often?

Are your employees fully aware and not likely to be unduly shocked when they read their appraisal form?

Documentation is the key as you are more than likely already undertaking these procedures but just have not got them down on paper. Do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

5) Risk Management

You are required to have a policy on the handling of conflicts.

a) Are you aware what constitutes a conflict due to the nature of the work you carry out?

If you have questions then I am sure your employees do too. Define conflicts and provide training by way of simple in house workshops and make Lexcel assist your business more than you thought it would.

6) Client Care

You have a duty to advise clients where the practice will receive a financial benefit as a result of accepting instructions and a policy for referring clients to third parties.

You should have covered this area already under your compliance arrangements to the SRA Code of Conduct, but a gentle reminder seemed appropriate.

The above is simply a brief synopsis of the changes. There is plenty more detail to consider in ensuring you are up to date with version 5, and of course you must be able to demonstrate that you review your policies and procedures for their effectiveness.

Why not seize this as an opportunity to improve your business and actually use the results of your reviews as a vital tool to take your business to the next level rather than simply filing them away.

Author: Michelle Knight
Date: May 2013

Company: Esterase Ltd
Tel.: 08455 199 149
Email: alex.vdh@esterase.co.uk
Web: www.esterase.co.uk

Postscript:

It is not surprising that, coupled with the ever increasing burden of compliance more and more law firms are struggling to stay up to date. In many cases they are seeking external assistance and effectively outsourcing this activity.

This means that outsourcing has become the norm for many support areas within a modern law firm (other examples can include call handling, typing, cashiering and IT functions). Like other approaches to streamlining within your business outsourcing can provide many financial benefits, through efficiency, best practice and flexibility.

it provides flexibility to you and your firm,
significant savings against the costs of a permanent employee,
helping you to substantially reduce the fixed cost of maintaining your own, and
enables you to focus on growing your business calling on the right help when you need it.

So does adherence with Lexcel v5 concern you? If the answer is yes Esterase can offer you assistance and breathing space to review your current policies and procedures. Esterase can provide a specialist consultancy on improving existing complaints procedures. They also provide fully compliant professional complaints handling services and support for legal practices. If you would like more information please:

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