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How Does Lexcel Benefit Legal Practices?

28 February 2024
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Lexcel is a prestigious quality mark for legal practices in the United Kingdom, demonstrating their commitment to high standards of client care, operational efficiency, and risk management. Developed by the Law Society of England and Wales, Lexcel provides a framework for legal firms to enhance their practices and gain a competitive edge in the sector. Lexcel accreditation can provide a range of benefits to a legal business - 93% of firms with Lexcel describe the standard as ‘useful or very useful’ - but what are these benefits?

What Core Areas of Legal Practices Does Lexcel Encompass?

The Lexcel standard encompasses seven core areas, designed to enhance the quality and efficiency of legal practices:

  • Client care
  • Risk management
  • People management
  • Structure and strategy
  • Financial management
  • Information management
  • File and case management

What Are the Main Benefits of Lexcel Accreditation?

There is a broad range of benefits that Lexcel can bring to a business. It is important to note that these benefits depend on a number of factors, such as the size of the business, its current financial situation, and so on. Some of the benefits of Lexcel include:

  • Augmenting managing compliance with SRA regulations
  • Supporting AML and data protection regulatory compliance 
  • A gateway to compliance with the Conveyancing Quality Standard (‘CQS’)
  • Operational efficiency
  • Flexibility
  • Increased profitability
  • Competitive advantage
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Attracting and retaining quality employees
  • A prerequisite for offering certain additional services
  • Winning new business
  • Client satisfaction and retention rates through consistent, quality services
  • Risk and mitigation reduction
  • Improved staff development and team morale
  • Financial stability
  • Supporting the management of Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) premiums
  • Continuous improvement
  • Recognition

Augmenting Managing Compliance With SRA Regulations

Lexcel provides a structured framework for legal practices to manage compliance with Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Standards & Regulations. The standard incorporates controls to align with SRA regulatory requirements into its overall framework for best practice, through a seamless set of controls that cover various aspects of law firm operations. Lexcel requires practices to conduct regular reviews and updates of their policies and procedures to ensure ongoing compliance; helping practices to keep up to date with changes to SRA rules, guidance, and regulatory expectations.

Supporting AML and Data Protection Regulatory Compliance

Lexcel supports legal practices in their controls for compliance with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and data protection regulations through requiring firms to establish and maintain robust policies, procedures, and controls. The controls prescribed by Lexcel are designed to align with regulatory requirements, whilst also requiring legal practices to provide training and development for staff and managers, which might include for example, helping employees recognise AML red flags or a Data Subject Access Request.

A Gateway to Compliance With the Conveyancing Quality Standard (CQS)

Lexcel accreditation goes a long way towards informing compliance with the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS). Whilst they are separate standards in their own right, around 65% of the controls for CQS are mirrored by those for Lexcel. Firms that hold Lexcel accreditation often remark that it was subsequently a relatively short jump to then also meet the requirements of CQS.

Operational Efficiency

Lexcel helps firms to streamline their operations, reducing errors, enhancing productivity, and ultimately saving time and resources through a series of prescribed foundations that help to avoid the risk of having to repeat actions several times over to get to the optimum control set. By adopting Lexcel's guidelines, practices can standardise their processes across various areas such as file management, client communication, risk assessment, and compliance, becoming more efficient in each area. The accreditation sits comfortably in the digital age, recognising the role of technology to streamline processes, improve collaboration and communication and manage risk.

Flexibility

There is no single “right way” to implement Lexcel; every law firm is different and Lexcel recognises this. Lexcel lends itself to flexibility in implementation, tailoring the guidelines to suit the needs, size and areas of practice. No two firms are the same, ever, and so this flexibility enables practices to adopt approaches that are most efficient and effective for their unique circumstances. Practices accredited with Lexcel are encouraged to regularly review their processes, implement changes and seek feedback from stakeholders, thereby promoting a culture of enhancement and stability that is uniquely relevant to each individual firm 

Competitive Advantage

Accreditation sets firms apart in a competitive market, attracting clients and demonstrating dedication to excellence. The Lexcel framework places great emphasis on the demonstration of quality and professionalism, so accredited practitioners can showcase their adherence to best practice and quality management systems, which in turn can enhance their reputation and credibility amongst clients, prospective clients, other professionals and stakeholders.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Lexcel accreditation demonstrates that a firm is operating with a robust set of controls and that its staff share a ‘common approach’, making such firms very attractive for onboarding. For practices undergoing a merger or acquisition, Lexcel accreditation can help manage or mitigate integration risks by providing a common framework for aligning policies, procedures, and other controls. Practices with the accreditation are likely to have compatible systems and processes, making integration smoother and more efficient, which can ultimately lead to a more successful and seamless transition for all parties involved.

Attracting and Retaining Quality Employees

Applicants and jobseekers, at all levels, have remarked to Lexcel assessors that they felt reassured by the stability and progression that Lexcel emphasises and encourages towards nurturing a desirable workplace. The accreditation has helped legal practices to attract and retain quality employees through, for example; demonstrating a commitment to excellence, enhancing reputation, offering a transparent structure for career development opportunities, providing a positive work environment, maintaining clear policies and procedures, gaining a competitive advantage in the market, and demonstrable employee retention.

A Prerequisite for Offering Certain Additional Services

As a prerequisite to obtaining a legal aid contract with the Legal Aid Agency (LAA), law firms must now hold either Lexcel accreditation or the Legal Aid Agency’s Specialist Quality Mark. Practices accredited with Lexcel are often viewed as being reputable and trustworthy, which can encourage clients to engage with them for additional services that require a specific level of professionalism and integrity.

Client Satisfaction and Retention Rates Through Consistent, Quality Services

Confidence and trust in a practitioner are some of the most important factors for many clients when choosing a provider of legal services. Lexcel accreditation places significant emphasis on client care, supporting client relationships, loyalty, positive feedback, and improved client retention. Lexcel’s systems of checks and reviews usher practices to, where possible, prioritise their understanding and address the unique needs and preferences of each client, tailoring their services or approach accordingly. By focusing on client satisfaction and outcomes, practices can build stronger relationships with clients and increase retention rates.

Risk Mitigation and Reduction

By implementing robust risk management policies, Lexcel helps firms identify and mitigate potential issues, reducing legal and financial risks. A study in 2019 found that 78% of firms identified Lexcel as an important risk management tool that had led to a reduction in complaints. Lexcel can provide procedures tailored to a practice’s specific needs, risks and circumstances. This involves implementing controls, safeguards, and monitoring mechanisms to reduce the likelihood of risks occurring or minimise their impact if they do occur, and indeed the facility to learn from situations. Practices with Lexcel accreditation have documented processes in place for managing risks proactively, supporting consistency and accountability.

Improved Staff Development and Team Morale

The Lexcel framework encourages staff training and development, promoting the skills and motivation of the firm’s workforce. In clearly defining roles, responsibilities and processes, Lexcel supports wellbeing in the workplace and emphasises the importance of cooperation and effective communication within legal practices; accredited practices have systems in place for promoting collaboration, sharing information, and fostering a supportive team environment. Open communication and teamwork can strengthen relationships among team members, improve morale, and enhance overall productivity.

Financial Stability

Robust financial management and controls promote financial health, profitability and sustainability. Lexcel encourages practices to adopt transparent and fair billing practices, including clear fee structures, estimates, and invoices; building trust with clients, reducing the risk of billing disputes and supporting revenue stability for the practice. In addition, streamlined processes and workflows can inform more effective resource allocation. By optimising these, practices can reduce costs, increase productivity and improve profitability.

Reduced PII Premiums

Whilst insurers do not publicly disclose professional indemnity insurance discounts for Lexcel accreditations, it is not unknown for insurers to factor certain risk management controls into their underwriting risk assessments which can have an impact on premium calculations. Since Lexcel accredited firms are required to follow established and measured risk management practices, insurers may take a positive view of organisations with Lexcel accreditation.

Continuous Improvement

The Lexcel framework promotes a culture of continuous improvement, planning and reviewing. This process lends itself to helping practices to adapt to change, including, technology, regulation, environmental, commercial, economic and social factors, as well as types of clients and the way that they are serviced, and of course changes to the legal sector itself. Indeed, in the early days of the first COVID lockdown, Lexcel firms would have been able to put the Lexcel-mandated processes such as business continuity plans, supervision procedures and cybersecurity controls to good use. The framework is designed to suit the needs of each practice (as mentioned in “Flexibility”), but this also means that it can adapt and improve its approach towards legal requirements and processes as and when they evolve over time. Within a practice, staff development can also improve over time too, following the Lexcel framework, contributing to a more dynamic workplace.

Recognition and Reputation

Lexcel accreditation is a recognised mark of excellence within the legal sector, enhancing a firm's reputation. Lexcel serves as an external and independent validation of a legal practice's commitment to excellence, professionalism, and quality service delivery. Achieving Lexcel accreditation demonstrates to clients, stakeholders, and the legal community that the business adheres to rigorous quality standards and best practice, reaffirming its reputation as a trustworthy business. This can correlate with client satisfaction and retention rates since a strong reputation and industry recognition can help to attract a wider client base.

Increased Profitability

All of the above ultimately lead to an organisation which is more robust, efficient and streamlined, with increased new business opportunities and reduced costs. By combining these factors, a positive outlook on practice profitability becomes more likely, opening up further opportunities for new clients, staff development and technology investments. However, to stand a greater chance of maximising profitability, all areas of the Lexcel framework should be adhered to, helping to safeguard the reputation and efficiency of the practice.

Do You Need Assistance With Lexcel Training or Accreditation?

The PDA Legal team includes a number of practising and long-standing Lexcel assessors, which means that we know exactly what other assessors are looking for when they visit your practice. Get in contact with us today to discuss how we can help your business.

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  • Law Society Lexcel Assessor. Legal Practice Quality Mark.