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What is the Conveyancing Quality Scheme?

14 November 2023
Boardroom with multiracial colleagues discussing a project

Launched in 2010 by the Law Society, the Conveyancing Quality Scheme has been widely adopted with many solicitors and law firms adding the CQS accreditation to their branding and marketing material. In fact, we reached out to the Law Society who advised that as of November 2023, they have 2,686 firms accredited on the scheme.

But what exactly is the Conveyancing Quality Scheme, why was it introduced, what does accreditation entail and what are the benefits of becoming accredited? We’ll cover those questions and more in our guide to the CQS scheme for 2024.

What is the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS)?

The scheme is optional, available to conveyancing firms registered with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), and accreditation needs to be renewed every 12 months.

What are the objectives of the CQS?

Prior to the introduction of the scheme, the Law Society was receiving a large number of complaints from consumers. This supported concerns that conveyancing standards had been falling for several years, frequently resulting in poor and inconsistent standards of service.

Therefore, the main aim of the scheme was to introduce a mechanism by which public confidence could be restored in the conveyancing sector, and to improve quality standards and consistency across this area of the profession.

There are three core values which members must adhere to:

  • proactively and effectively manage risk and demonstrate behaviours that support and promote the integrity of CQS and the community,
  • demonstrate best practice and excellence in client care through robust practice management of residential conveyancing, and;
  • demonstrate thorough knowledge and skill in handling conveyancing transactions.

In addition, the Law Society created a CQS Charter which all accredited firms must operate by. The Charter clearly and concisely lays out the minimum standards which clients can expect to receive:

When you contact us to discuss your sale or purchase we will explain clearly the steps in the process and what you can expect from your solicitor. We will:

  • tell you what the costs will be;
  • keep you informed of progress in your sale or purchase; and,
  • work in line with the quality standards of the Law Society’s CQS.

We will also:

  • treat you fairly;
  • be polite and professional;
  • respond promptly to your inquiries;
  • tell you about any problems as soon as we are aware of them; and,
  • ask for your feedback on our service.”

Who can apply for the Conveyancing Quality Scheme?

The scheme is only available to firms who are authorised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to practice residential conveyancing law within England and Wales.

What are the benefits of CQS accreditation?

CQS accreditation brings with it a number of benefits.

  • The largest is that it opens access to a greater number of lender panels as CQS accreditation is now a requirement of many lenders including Santander, Metro Bank, Nationwide, HSBC UK, Yorkshire Bank and more.
  • This also provides your firm with a competitive advantage as, if the client chooses a lender who requires use of a CQS accredited solicitor, non-accredited practices will be unable to assist a client with a property purchase.
  • Enhancements to service quality and reducing errors which, in turn, serves to protect and enhance your brand image and reputation.
  • Fewer complaints.
  • It provides an independent, easy-to-understand channel to demonstrate your commitment to transparency and excellence throughout the conveyancing process when communicating with new potential clients.
  • It can help reduce professional indemnity insurance premiums.

What is required in order to become CQS accredited?

In order to achieve accreditation, conveyancing solicitors must pass an extensive test by the Law Society for Probity and Quality.

Your practice must be able to demonstrate compliance with:

  • Core Practice Management Standards
  • Client Service Charter
  • Conveyancing Protocol
  • CQS onsite assessment guidance notes

The 2022 CQS Core Practice Management Standards (CPMS) define quality management procedures in seven key areas (prior to the 2022 update, there were six areas):

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

The CQS Protocol outlines practices to be followed across six key stages of residential conveyancing work:

  • Instructions
  • Pre-exchange – submitting a contract
  • Prior to exchange of contracts
  • Exchange of contracts
  • Completion
  • Post-completion

You can download the onsite assessment guidance notes here.

The firm must appoint a Senior Responsible Officer (SRO), who must be approved by the Law Society for that role.

The scheme also requires practices to undergo compulsory training for all “Relevant Persons”, a strict initial assessment which is performed in year one and every three years thereafter, shorter annual reviews, and random interim audits.

As touched on at the start of this article, accreditation lasts for 12 months and practices can apply for re-accreditation up to six weeks prior to the expiry date.

CQS Guidance Notes

Below are a selection of CQS guidance notes which will provide invaluable help for your Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) and other colleagues involved within the conveyancing process.

Who are “Relevant Persons” within the context of CQS?

CQS training must be provided to all fee earners (regardless of status or qualification) and support staff who work in the conveyancing department.

The CQS scheme rules define “Relevant Persons” as:

All persons who are managers, Qualified Conveyancers, Non-Qualified Conveyancers, Key Support Staff, Accounts Staff and Locums.

The Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) decides whether key support staff need to complete training.

How much does CQS accreditation cost?

There are various costs associated with CQS accreditation and each typically varies based on the size of your organisation, and the experience of your team. However, we have provided a rough guide to these below based on typical prices for 2023/4.

Initial application fee

The CQS application fee is based on the size of your organisation in terms of the number of partners right across the firm, from all areas of law. Pricing starts at £167 (ex. VAT) for a sole practitioner, £298 (ex. VAT) for 2-4 partners, rising to £1,942 (ex. VAT) for firms with 70+ partners.

Full application pricing information is available on the Law Society website.

CQS accreditation fee

The accreditation fee is also based on the practice size depending on the number of partners, but at the time of writing is set to a uniform £95 (ex. VAT) for each band.

Full accreditation pricing information is available on the Law Society website.

Mandatory CQS Training

All Relevant Persons must complete their mandatory training within six months from the date that your practice receives its accreditation.

The mandatory training is provided by a limited number of providers, the principal provider being the Law Society.

In terms of costs, as is not uncommon in many sectors, the cost of training varies depending on the existing knowledge level of the individual or team versus how much of the mandatory training segments are required to attain a desired standard. As a guide, it would be not unreasonable to consider an average budget of around £150 (ex. VAT) per person.

Private CQS Training

In addition to the mandatory training, many firms have found it especially helpful to provide additional private CQS-specific training for their conveyancing teams, to ensure that they stay well-informed and at the top of their game. At PDA Legal, we provide conveyancing teams and professionals with private group training sessions, supporting CQS compliance and best practice.

Costs for private training vary according to the scope and detail required. And, because all of PDA’s training is tailored to each firm, we can fold other key topics, such as Lexcel or further relevant AML, into the sessions.

For PDA’s tailored training, delivered in person, a firm might typically budget for between £80 and £120 (plus VAT) per person.

We offer a free initial consultation during which we can discuss your training needs and provide you with a clear, fixed price for training your team.

In addition, for firms who already have their accreditation, we can provide training to bring your team up to speed following the recent compliance update. Contact us today if your team has not yet received this training.

DBS check

Users directly involved with the conveyancing process need to be Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checked using the “Standard level DBS check”. This costs £18 per person. Beware of firms offering this service online at often inflated prices.

Preparatory audits and support for exiting CQS firms

We help firms to prepare for their first CQS application as well as supporting existing CQS firms to maintain their accreditation (especially after updates to the CQS by the Law Society. We offer a free initial consultation to help you identify the cost for a CQS preparatory audit or onward support, but as a guide, the costs not atypically range from £500 (plus VAT) for updating support for an existing CQS firm to £4700 (plus VAT) for a full audit with written reporting, feedback meetings, onsite reviews of matter files and observation of controls.

Ensure you have a CQS training process in place

As touched on above, training is a mandatory part of attaining and maintaining your CQS accreditation. In addition, all Relevant Persons must complete their mandatory training within six months from the date that your practice received its accreditation.

It is important therefore, that you have robust processes and controls in place and maintain a record of all initial and subsequent training. And, that these also ensure that training is provided for new staff in a timely manner if their role falls within the scope of the CQS.

One of the added benefits of partnering with PDA Legal to deliver your CQS training is that we also provide bespoke training courses across several other related disciplines including:

Each of the above disciplines often overlaps others, with none operating in isolation. And so, our unified training provides you with peace of mind that your team is building relevant, reliable and critically, consistent, knowledge from a single source.

Overlaps between CQS and Lexcel

There are significant overlaps between these two standards from the Law Society. Approximately two-thirds of the Lexcel standard’s requirements correspond with the requirements of CQS.

This means that firms that already have Lexcel accreditation often find that it is only a relatively short jump to also obtain CQS accreditation.

The PDA team’s experience of Lexcel is vast and unparalleled; our team having worked with the standard since its launch in 1998. Our 25+ years of immersion in Lexcel enables us to thread Lexcel and CQS consulting, training and support, seamlessly and efficiently for clients who would like to achieve, or retain, both standards.

Need help with CQS training or accreditation preparation?

If you need support preparing for your initial accreditation application, a re-accreditation, or need to arrange CQS training, we can help. With over 25 years of experience in the legal sector, we have supported over 500 law firms, so you can rest assured you are in safe hands.

Contact us to book your free initial consultation today.

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