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What Are The CQS Core Management Standards & What Do You Need to Know for 2024?

16 May 2024
Two professionals in formal attire examining documents.

In May 2022, the CQS (Conveyancing Quality Scheme) for the CPMS (Core Practice Management Standards) was updated by the Law Society to augment the credibility of the CQS, safeguard the interests of clients and promote excellence within the legal profession, giving a more up-to-date account in an ever-changing legal world. Most conveyancing law firms will have already been through one round of audits with the latest standards - however, it is important to be aware of the changes and consistently comply with the standards.

No matter if you are an experienced professional or a new member of staff to the CPMS, this easy-to-read guide will provide you with practical information to keep up with the changes that have been made and to support compliance within the legal sector.

What Are the CQS Core Practice Management Standards?

The CQS Core Practice Management Standards, or “CPMS” for short, contain 7 key principles that must be adhered to stay compliant. Prior to 2022, there were 6 principles for CPMS - “Structure and Strategy” and “People Management” have been added, whilst “Supervision and Operational Risk Management” has been dropped. The current principles now consist of:

  • Structure and Strategy
  • Financial Management
  • Information Management
  • People Management
  • Risk Management
  • Client Care
  • File and Case Management

Why Are the CPMS Needed?

By adhering to the CQS CPMS, legal practitioners can demonstrate their commitment to maintaining high standards of quality, professionalism, and client care in their conveyancing practice. These standards help to instil confidence in clients and promote trust in the legal profession as a whole. Each principle has a specific purpose to benefit the business, keeping them compliant with the CQS. Let’s take a look at each of these principles.

Structure and Strategy

Added in 2022, this principle is concerned with establishing a clear organisational framework and long-term planning strategies within legal practices. This includes defining roles and responsibilities, implementing governance mechanisms, developing strategic plans for growth and risk management, ensuring sound financial practices, leveraging technology effectively, and maintaining ethical and professional standards throughout the firm's operations.

Financial Management

This entails implementing robust practices to ensure the integrity and transparency of financial transactions within legal practices. Practices must adhere to sound financial management, including proper accounting procedures, handling of client funds, and compliance with financial regulations. This underpins the integrity of financial transactions and protects the interests of clients, promoting the financial stability of the firm.

Information Management

This principle involves establishing robust systems and procedures to effectively manage and safeguard information related to conveyancing transactions within legal practices. This includes organising and maintaining accurate records, ensuring confidentiality and data security, implementing appropriate technology solutions for data management, and complying with relevant legal and regulatory requirements, such as data protection laws.

People Management

Alongside “Structure and Strategy”, this is another of the new principles added in 2022. Effective people management practices are vital for creating a positive work environment and ensuring staff members have the necessary skills and support to deliver quality conveyancing services. This entails providing training and development opportunities, managing workload effectively, and fostering a culture of teamwork and collaboration.

Risk Management

Firms are required to implement robust risk management procedures to identify and mitigate potential risks associated with conveyancing transactions. This involves compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, such as anti-money laundering (AML) regulations and data protection laws. Effective risk management safeguards client interests, protects the firm's reputation, and promotes confidence in the conveyancing process.

Client Care

Practices must prioritise clear, timely, and transparent communication with clients throughout the conveyancing process. Clients should be provided with comprehensive information about costs, timelines and the progress of their transactions, ensuring their needs and concerns are addressed promptly and professionally. Adhering to this fosters trust, satisfaction, and confidence in the legal services provided, ultimately enhancing the client experience and reputation of the firm.

File and Case Management

Efficient systems and procedures for organising, maintaining, and tracking client files should be established. Firms should accurately record and document key information, ensuring all necessary documents are collected and stored securely, and maintaining compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. Adhering to file and case management enhances productivity, accuracy, and compliance within the firm's conveyancing operations, ultimately contributing to the delivery of high-quality services to clients.

What Are the Benefits for Compliant Businesses?

The CPMS are essential within the CQS and those who consistently keep up with the changes will benefit from doing so, demonstrating their commitment to legal compliance. Some of these benefits include:

  • Promotes Professionalism - Adhering to the latest controls sets a benchmark for quality standards within conveyancing practices, upholding professionalism, efficiency and accuracy during their operations.
  • Compliance - They help firms stay compliant with legal and regulatory requirements, such as anti-money laundering (AML) regulations, data protection laws, and professional conduct standards.
  • Client Protection - By adhering to CPMS, firms prioritise client care, communication, and protection of client interests throughout the conveyancing process, enhancing transparency and trust.
  • Competitive Advantage - Firms accredited under CQS demonstrate their commitment to quality and professionalism, which in turn can yield a competitive edge in the market and attract clients who value reliability and expertise.
  • Risk Mitigation - CPMS guides firms in identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks associated with conveyancing transactions, reducing the likelihood of errors, omissions, and compliance breaches.

What Do Law Firms Need to Do Now?

Businesses in the legal sector need to ensure that relevant people are familiar with the 3 main values of CQS, as well as the updates to the CPMS. To do so, comprehensive training should be provided, aiming to have all relevant staff fully trained and on board with the updates, making necessary changes to your processes where required. PDA Legal provides risk management and compliance services for law firms, including tailored CQS training to augment the Law Society’s mandatory courses, which must be completed annually to keep your firm compliant. The Law Society requires that this training must be completed within 6 months of joining a CQS-accredited firm, and the PDA Legal team can help you develop processes to manage and schedule this, thereby helping to reduce your workload.

To keep up with the CQS CPMS in 2024, the following steps act as a suitable guideline:

  1. Understand the Standards - As a business, familiarise yourself with the CPMS guidelines and requirements outlined by the Law Society. It is important to ensure all staff members are aware of their responsibilities in meeting these standards.
  2. Implement Policies and Procedures - Develop and implement policies and procedures that align with the CPMS, covering important areas such as client care, risk management and information management.
  3. Training and Development - Provide ongoing training and development opportunities for staff, so that they have the necessary skills and knowledge to meet and sustain CQS standards, in turn supporting professional conduct, legal requirements and best practice.
  4. Monitor Compliance - Regularly monitor and review your firm’s practices to maintain compliance with CPMS. It is important to conduct internal audits, assessments and reviews - this is something which we can help you with.
  5. Stay Updated - Keep up with any changes to the CQS standards and other regulatory requirements. Stay informed about industry developments, legal changes and best practice relevant to conveyancing.
  6. Maintain Documentation - Maintain accurate and up-to-date documentation of your firm’s policies, procedures and compliance efforts. Document client communications, file management processes and risk assessments to demonstrate compliance if needed.
  7. Seek Accreditation Renewal - Underpin timely renewal of your firm’s CQS accreditation by meeting all renewal requirements set by the Law Society. This includes providing evidence of ongoing compliance, necessary assessments and paying renewal fees.

Ensure Your Firm Benefits From CQS Training to Stay Compliant

At PDA Legal, we provide comprehensive CQS training for law firms with staff in need of a ‘refresher’, or for those who have taken new staff on. Our training is conducted either remotely/online or in person, to best suit r you and your staff. Get in touch with us today to schedule a FREE consultation.

Get in touch for a free no obligation quote today
  • Law Society Lexcel Assessor. Legal Practice Quality Mark.