LSB Consumer Panel criticises aspects of the CQS – or fiddling whilst Rome burns.

The Legal Services Board Consumer panel last week issued a report into legal voluntary quality schemes assessing 13 schemes including the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme.  The CQS was launched in February to rebuild trust with lenders, insurers and consumers in the wake of unacceptably high levels of fraud and negligence in the conveyancing community.
Back in May the Legal Services Board asked the Consumer Panel to “identify characteristics that quality schemes must have to give consumers confidence that they are robust and reliable indicator of a good legal service provider” and to measure a selection of schemes against the criteria.
Whilst many solicitors have embraced the CQS others have yet to apply.  The report suggests only 8.7% of potentially eligible firms had been accredited by the 22nd August with numbers slowly creeping upwards since.  It still seems unlikely that a majority of the SRA estimate of 5713 SRA regulated conveyancers are likely to be accredited in the short term.
Despite considerable criticism from many solicitors about the cost, benefits claimed, time to implement, and attitude of lenders towards the CQS the Consumer Panel was not as scathing of the CQS as other schemes.
The CQS scored most highly for “structured sanctions and disciplinary process” and least well for “use of lay input”.  Overall the schemes average scored across nine characteristics was above the middle score of “partly” meeting the criteria but not as high as “mostly” meeting the criteria.
Even though the CQS scored reasonably well against the criteria set the report expressed concern saying “in practice VQS (voluntary quality schemes) can become mandatory to access certain parts of the legal services market; this situation is developing in the conveyancing market for solicitors.  Whilst the panel supports efforts to raise standards, this risks market players and not the regulators being the guardian of entry standards.”
It also criticised one of the reasons why the CQS was set up.  Back in February when the CQS was launched the Law Society stated that it was to be used to help consumers choose the best conveyancers and help conveyancers differentiate their marketing on quality.  The report states “schemes face an uphill battle to tackle consumer scepticism and gain widespread awareness”
Later the report states “Although 70% of the general population in England and Wales are aware of quality marks in the economy only 5% look for them when purchasing legal services compared with 31% purchasing electrical goods or 17% when purchasing building services”
The report recommends:-
  • Scheme operators should consider whether their schemes:
  1. Measure actual competence
  2. Provide clear consumer information
  3. Have lay input
LSB Consumer Panel criticises aspects of the CQS — or fiddling whilst Rome burns.
In a controversial report the Legal Services Board’s Consumer Panel has reviewed “Voluntary Quality Schemes” including the CQS concluding that whilst the CQS is better than many other legal quality marks it could do better.   In the meantime clients and lenders lose out to increasing fraud and negligence. 
The Legal Services Board Consumer panel last week issued a report into legal voluntary quality schemes assessing 13 schemes including the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme.
Back in May the Legal Services Board asked the Consumer Panel to “identify characteristics that quality schemes must have to give consumers confidence that they are robust and reliable indicator of a good legal service provider” and to measure a selection of schemes against the criteria.
Whilst many solicitors have embraced the CQS others have yet to apply.  The report suggests only 8.7% of potentially eligible firms had been accredited by the 22nd August with numbers slowly creeping upwards since.  It still seems unlikely that a majority of the SRA estimate of 5713 SRA regulated conveyancers are likely to be accredited in the short term.
Despite considerable criticism from many solicitors about the cost, benefits claimed, time to implement, and attitude of lenders towards the CQS the Consumer Panel was not as scathing of the CQS as other schemes.
The CQS scored most highly for “structured sanctions and disciplinary process” and least well for “use of lay input”.  Overall the schemes average scored across nine characteristics was above the middle score of “partly” meeting the criteria but not as high as “mostly” meeting the criteria.
Even though the CQS scored reasonably well against the criteria set the report expressed concern saying “in practice VQS (voluntary quality schemes) can become mandatory to access certain parts of the legal services market; this situation is developing in the conveyancing market for solicitors.  Whilst the panel supports efforts to raise standards, this risks market players and not the regulators being the guardian of entry standards.”
It also criticised one of the reasons why the CQS was set up.  Back in February when the CQS was launched the Law Society stated that it was to be used to help consumers choose the best conveyancers and help conveyancers differentiate their marketing on quality.  The report states “schemes face an uphill battle to tackle consumer scepticism and gain widespread awareness”
Later the report states “Although 70% of the general population in England and Wales are aware of quality marks in the economy only 5% look for them when purchasing legal services compared with 31% purchasing electrical goods or 17% when purchasing building services”
The report recommends:-
  • Scheme operators should consider whether their schemes:
  1. Measure actual competence
  2. Provide clear consumer information
  3. Have lay input
  • Collect data, analyse it and publish it e.g. complaints
  • Regulators should be given access to scheme membership information
  • Work with the LSB to consider an independent accreditation scheme for voluntary quality schemes.
We at Today’s Conveyancer consider the whole idea of a quality mark for quality mark schemes must be a madness too far when there is so much to do to save the conveyancing sector from being wiped out due to the fraud and negligence of recent years.  We hope that the Law Society, SRA, CLC, LSB and the LSB Consumer Panel we can work constructively together to clean up the mistakes, fraud and negligence in conveyancing before lenders call for a system without lawyer involvement. 
Today's Conveyancer