Congratulations to us! Quality Standards MQM and SQM

It has been a very busy few weeks and the dust is starting to settle.

Last spring I made the momentous decision to start my own practice from scratch and to apply for Legal Aid contracts.

It has been a lengthy process.

As part of the Legal Aid contract tendering process, I had to demonstrate that I had plans in place that would allow me to meet the required quality standards. These are the Mediation Quality Mark (MQM) and the Specialist Quality Mark (SQM).

I was awarded the Legal Aid Contracts for Family Law and for Family Mediation (on condition of achieving the full quality standards). The Practice was authorised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. There was loads of other stuff to sort out, such as offices, branding, website, precedents etc.

By the time I arrived in my office in February, I had passed desktop Audits for both Quality Standards.

In April, I passed the first of two on site audits for the SQM. This wasn’t too tricky, because I had hardly any files at that point.

But last week, I had the final on site audit for the SQM and this week, the one and only on site audit for the MQM.

This time it was for real. Files were examined. It was assessed, whether my quality management processes were in place and working.  A serious and outright failure would mean that I would no longer be able to undertake that strand of Legal Aid work. It was also possible to fail, but with some time being given to me to correct problems.

I am pleased to say that I fell into neither category. Both Audits were passed with no corrective action required. Effectively top marks! What a relief. Of course I never expected not to pass. I have years of experience of working within similar systems, and for a previous firm I was responsible for oversight of the SQM. I have also previously written departmental manuals that meet the required standards.  But that was for other people, and building on existing systems. This time it was entirely me. So the relief and pride are both immense. And time for a celebration over the weekend.

I am particularly pleased because this means that I will be able to continue to offer my services in what I think is the best way for my clients. I apply my systems accross the board, so all clients are assisted to the same high standards.

Still, it has been a long journey. To Quote Winston Churchill now is “perhaps, the end of the beginning”. Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors is here to stay, and we can move on from strength to strength.

Here is some more information on the SQM and MQM

Link to Legal Aid Agency Quality Assurance Page

The Specialist Quality Mark (SQM) and the Mediation Quality Mark (MQM) standards are owned by the LSC and are quality assurance standards for legal services providers.

All legal services providers that hold a legal aid contract must have the SQM or MQM standard or the [Law Society] Lexcel Practice Management standard (Lexcel).

Specialist Quality Mark (SQM)
The SQM is a quality assurance standard for legal services providers that:

  • supply complex legal help
  • offer a full range of legal services, including representation in court (where necessary and permitted) by formally trained professionals

Organisations that deliver legal aid must hold either the SQM or Lexcel (the Law Society’s practice management standard).

Family Mediation Quality Mark (MQM)
The MQM is a quality assurance standard for organisations providing family mediation services to the public.

Organisations that provide mediation services under legal aid must hold this standard.



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