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With the New Year comes the new standard of Lexcel, Version 5. However, a firm who already has the standard need not panic, because the changes are not as rigorous as they may have feared. This is also good news for a firm which is working towards or is thinking of trying to achieve Lexcel Version 5. Lexcel Version 5, in a nutshell, works hand in hand with the new outcomes-focused regulations. The whole feel of the Lexcel Version 5 standard falls in line with the new consumer focused approach to legal practice embodied in the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. Each law firm is now being told that to achieve the standard they effectively must make their practices more transparent in relation to client facing activity.
The new requirement in Lexcel Version 5 for an outsourcing policy highlights this idea. Every firm must now make it clear to clients if they outsource any activities, this can range for example from typing work to the use of paralegals. The Law Society appears to be reinforcing the fact that client confidentiality is of paramount importance and that the law firm is accountable for this, rather than necessarily having any particular interest in the type and detail of any outsourcing agreements. The Lexcel assessor will want to know which confidentiality agreements the firm has with third parties which contain client information.
Lexcel Version 5 also tightens up previous policies and procedures which arguably needed a little tweaking to make sure they were watertight. An example of this is equality and diversity, in relation to which a firm must now have a procedure for dealing with complaints and disciplinary issues, monitor diversity and also train all staff in relation to compliance with equality and diversity requirements. As noted, this is a proactive move on behalf of the Law Society as it is ensuring that a firm must have written
documentation on issues such as equality and diversity and they must actively participate in training and look generally at how the firm approaches such an important issue.
A further example of Lexcel version 5 tightening up loose but “satisfactory” policies and procedures under Lexcel V4.1 is in relation to conflict of interests. Now a person must be responsible for the policy and the policy itself is far more structured. This indicates again that Lexcel version 5 expands upon version 4.1 by ensuring that not only are the policies in place but individuals are openly responsible for ensuring the standard is followed.
There are numerous other areas of change under Lexcel Version 5, the requirement for a community and social responsibility policy stands out as a big change from version 4.1. However this is not going to take hours of trawling through paper work and lots of research to implement as did some of the changes from version 4 to 4.1 of Lexcel.
On the whole the new standard should be accepted with open arms as a positive progression of the Lexcel 4.1 standard that will not have partners pulling their hair out trying to satisfy. However there is work to be done and for that reason every law firm must take Lexcel version 5 just as serious as they did with version 4.1.
Client Relationship Manager
T: 0113 385 4483
M: 07432 695 289
The Law Society has issued a practice note about the risks to solicitors posed by this new legislation, which came into force on 30 September.
The SRA has urged all practices to check HM Treasury’s consolidated list of asset freeze targets, which lists designated persons subject to financial sanction under EU or UK legislation.
The practising certificate renewal period opened on Monday 2 October.
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