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ISO 9001 battles Lexcel as the must-have quality standard in UK law firms

30 July 2012

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

An increasing number of UK law firms are seeking the international quality accreditation ISO 9001 instead of Lexcel.

Over 1,000 law firms have gone down the path of obtaining the Law Society’s practice management standard Lexcel. Firms that have achieved certification include Bircham Dyson Bell, Mishcon De Reya and Trowers & Hamlins.

However, a growing number of firms are choosing to obtain the international quality management systems standard ISO 9001 instead. UK firms that have achieved this standard include Irwin Mitchell and Cumberland Ellis.

Commenting on Cumberland Ellis’ decision to go for the ISO standard instead of Lexcel, managing partner Neil Turner and partner Mark Shulman said:

“First, the Lexcel practice management standard is only awarded to solicitors. We felt that, in the general market, there was an advantage in having a kitemark such as ISO 9001, which was more likely to be familiar to potential clients and those awarding tenders.

“Second, we considered that ISO 9001 would give the firm greater flexibility in terms of its procedures and would initially cause the least resistance in terms of buy-in, because the ISO processes would broadly reflect current practice, rather than new ways of doing things.” (see Quality systems)

DWF, which has held ISO 9001 accreditation for a decade, recently recertified its Newcastle and Teesside offices to the international standard following its merger with Crutes.

Said managing partner Andrew Leaitherland of DWF’s accreditation: “We have installed a dedicated quality and improvement team to manage our firmwide audit programme against core procedures every year – this has helped us to reach the ISO standard for the past ten years”.

LawNet, a network of independent law firms, requires all member firms to obtain ISO 9001 certification within two years of joining to ensure they all work to common standards, purposes and processes.

In recognition of increasing demand for Lexcel certification among member firms, LawNet last year began offering dual accreditation in the Lexcel and ISO 9001 standards.

The dual accreditation is intended to provide greater efficiencies where Lexcel is a requirement for public funded work or tenders. Firms can opt for Lexcel assessment at the same time as their regular ISO audit, with auditors for the LawNet quality standard scheme now authorised to audit member firms to the Lexcel mark too.

Said chief executive John Thomas on LawNet’s decision to require ISO accreditation instead of Lexcel: “Lexcel wasn’t around at the time the standard was created, but the group has continued to support ISO as it is an internationally-recognised accreditation.”

According to Thomas, LawNet is currently the only group to offer dual accreditation in this way, with dual-accredited firms having just one audit annually for each quality standard. Member firms that have achieved certification for both the ISO 9001 and Lexcel standards to date include Oxley & Coward and Parrott & Coales.

Ashfords, which merged with Rochman Landau earlier this year, has also obtained both ISO 9001 and Lexcel accreditation for its west country offices.

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