In Industry Insights

Are you considering Lexcel accreditation for your law firm? Wondering about its benefits and how it can elevate your practice?

Join us as we delve into the world of Lexcel with insights from John Edwards of Recognising Excellence. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the advantages, the assessment process, and the latest updates to the Lexcel standard, providing you with everything you need to know about this prestigious accreditation.

Hi John, could you give us a little background about Recognising Excellence?

Recognising Excellence has been licensed by The Law Society to provide Lexcel Assessments since the quality standard’s inception in 2000. Before Lexcel came along, we were a very successful Investors in People assessment unit operating across the South West.

Recognising Excellence’s assessor team is well known for the added value they bring to the assessment process with suggestions for best practice to help enhance systems and processes.

For over more than 20 years, we have developed a wealth of understanding of assessment processes and outcomes, as well as the ability to manage the needs and expectations of clients both during and after assessments. Our assessors are highly trained legal sector specialists, with extensive experience in reviewing written documentation submitted by a client, as well as collating and assimilating the evidence received during a rigorous assessment process through file reviews and interviews.

We are a leading assessment and accreditation service, both nationally and internationally.

Why should firms consider becoming Lexcel accredited?

The best way to answer this question, Jon, would be to look at some of our client feedback about the benefits of Lexcel accreditation:

“It helps us to maintain a quality standard with our policies and procedures and gives us peace of mind that we are achieving and maintaining those standards as an organisation. We welcome the feedback and suggestions that our Lexcel assessor provides and we find it helpful that we can discuss matters where necessary.”

“Assistance with areas to improve in, attracts clients to the firm and helps them with their decision-making when choosing between firms, motivates the team in terms of the controls, systems, processes and why we follow them.”

“Lexcel enables us to have standardised procedures across our offices in what is an increasingly regulated and compliant led legal framework. It also assists our firm with keeping a high standard in the office and most importantly keeping our files to a standard that they should be.”

“Having an external assessment of what we are doing is invaluable to myself and management team – it is our only litmus test on performance.”

“We see the Lexcel Standard as a foundation to work to and achieve the highest possible level of excellence. It is an essential benchmark and helps us focus on the core areas for continued development and improvement. Having independent assessment also brings about good suggestions for best practice to help us achieve our goals.”

“Lexcel ensures a guaranteed standard of work across our organisation, but does not stop innovation. It helps to reduce our insurance premiums. We also mainly comply with CQS as the standards overlap so we have had to do very little work to incorporate the CQS standard. When our Lexcel Assessor reviews us annually she always brings good suggestions and shares ideas of best practice that are always useful.”

“The links and recommendations can be handy – as assessors see other firms and can share knowledge. The diary date for a visit does also focus our mind and we plan reviews and document updates through the year to ensure we are ready. I’m not sure we would be so diligent without external assessment.”

“The Lexcel accreditation gives our firm a framework upon which to manage staff, clients, risk and finance.
With increasing compliance and regulation of the legal profession, working with our compliance consultant and our Lexcel assessor allows us to keep updated on these matters and we learn from their expertise and experience with other firms.”

“The Lexcel Standard provides an annual independent assessment of how we manage our practice and the level of service that we provide to clients, which helps to increase client confidence in our organisation and the confidence of important third parties, such as our insurance underwriters. The Standard informs prospects about our commitment to providing a quality service and continually improving that service.”

“Improved work ethics and structure, consistent level of client care, reduced client complaints and improved satisfaction, reduced risk and manage risk effectively.”

I understand the standard is changing – what’s going to be in the new Lexcel version?

The current version of the Standard is v6.1 and this will change to v7 soon. The latest from the Lexcel Office is that they will issue the new version in early 2024, and that there will be a lead-in timeframe for firms to adjust their systems to accommodate the changes. Recognising Excellence intends to offer free v.7 webinars to all of our registered firms so we can work together on any new or different aspects – so watch this space!

What are some of the common failings during assessment?

  • Most common non-compliances would include:
  • not undertaking the required number of file reviews
  • not completing staff appraisal/reviews
  • delays in closing completed matter files
  • basic errors in client correspondence
  • failing to review policies/plans/procedures on an annual basis
  • consideration of operational risk in all matters before, during and after completion of the matter

What’s the most bizarre thing that’s happened during an assessment?

In planning an assessment I sent the Managing Partner a list of interviewees. He then organised the timings but the other senior Partner replying to him mistakenly included me on the reply. The reply read “Thank goodness he didn’t select me. I am behind with my file and staff reviews, Lucky methinks!

I of course included him in the interviews but only as I arrived on-site.

The firm that offered me a coffee and asked if I took sugar. I confirmed that I did. When the coffee arrived I almost spat it across the room as they’d accidentally used salt! (It’s the only time a firm has tried to poison me.)

I was locked in a toilet once. I was assessing a law firm and nipped off to the loo which I didn’t realise was slightly remote from the main reception area. I didn’t take my bag or phone and as I closed the door, the handle fell off. I did what I had to do then tried to open the door but it was wedged shut and there was no way of opening it.

I starting calling out “Hellooo…” thinking someone may miss me or another person may come to use the loo, but there was nobody about. After a few minutes my cries got louder as did my knocking on the door. It transpired the receptionist had gone off for lunch and with no-one else about, I was stuck in the loo for just short of an hour before she came back. Suppose it’s one way of keeping the assessor away from reviewing files!

But the most bizarre thing? One that springs to mind is a Zoom/Teams interview where the interviewee was positioned with a large couch behind him almost fully concealed by his body on camera. Half way through the interview, I saw a pair of stretching paws appear from behind him to the left, and then his Irish wolfhound rose from behind him in full stretch mode like a werewolf!

Another animal one, was where a senior partner, again a remote interview, had clearly moved his sleeping cat and its cushion from the tall table behind him, just before he pressed ‘Join’ to start the remote interview. He didn’t see the cat jump back onto the table behind him and deliver a stare of utter disgust and contempt. I asked the interviewee to turn round and just take a look.

Of course, in all cases, the interviews and assessments then continued in full Lexcel mode, but the episodes brought a little light relief to the day.

Finally, John, any advice for firms to get the most out of Lexcel?

To get the most out of the Standard, it must be endorsed and supported from the very top of the organisation all the way down.
It has to be embraced by all.

Lexcel should be considered a way of practice life and not just a tick box exercise. The standard is designed to encourage you to look long and hard at how you operate, and it provides the framework to not only protect the firm and reduce complaints, but to bring a consistent approach that all staff can work with.

If you would like to find out a little more, you can visit Recognising Excellence for further information.

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