Blog: By Joanne Hunter, Head of Marketing, Select Legal Systems Limited

Regular conversations with law firms reveal what the important considerations are when it comes to Lexcel

One of the best pieces of career advice I ever received, as a marketing manager, was that I should make time every single week to have a decent conversation with at least one client. As my mentor at the time lamented, these conversations are the best way to keep on top of what is really important to clients. It seems obvious now, and during the busiest times it’s not always easy to keep up, but as my former manager has been proven right many times over, it’s clear the more of these kind of conversations I had, the better equipped I became to do my job. Every single time I speak to a client, without fail, I learn something new, that is absolutely key, and often a surprise. It’s not always what the client says, it is sometimes what they don’t say that strikes a chord, and in time you get really good at reading between the lines. This technique is still providing great insight, 20 years on. An excellent example of this is a recent conversation I had with a client who was in the midst of his annual Lexcel assessment. Whilst the main conversation was about something entirely different, the client enthused about “how much easier the Lexcel assessment process was for the firm, now they were really using LAWFUSION to its full potential“. The insight from this short, but powerful comment, was twofold.

THE INSIGHT WAS TWOFOLD:

1) Joining the dots

Having served the legal profession as a software supplier for 28 years, it sometimes occurs to me that we often take for granted some of the really powerful aspects of our software suite. This recent client conversation reminded me that over many years of development whilst studying the software needs of law firms, we have considered all elements of Lexcel, and aligned LAWFUSION’S functionality, wherever possible, with Lexcel criteria. Whilst I am satisfied, my team and I promote all the individual modules of LAWFUSION that help with Lexcel pretty well, the insight from this client has shown me we have perhaps had not been joining the dots in terms of what its functionality offers collectively in terms of the seven areas of Lexcel assessment. A subtle, but important difference, that inspired me to write this blog.

2) Software alone won’t achieve Lexcel for you 

Secondly, my client’s point about ‘now they are using the software to its full potential‘ is key too. Because no piece of software is ever going to achieve the Lexcel accreditation, or any other accreditation, for you.  As with any law firm business objective, effort, commitment and focus from the law firm itself has to come first. The software provides a range of tools, that if configured and used properly, can make a real difference, but the two are not mutually exclusive.

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED SINCE 1998

Since it was introduced by the Law Society in 1998, the Lexcel standard has become recognised by many as a sure-fire way for legal practices to reduce risk, complaints and mistakes, in order to improve client satisfaction and profitability.

After my recent client call, I got to thinking about all the client conversations Team LAWFUSION would have had since 1998 about Lexcel and how LAWFUSION helps, and I thought it might be useful to collate what my colleagues had learnt, collectively, the past 23 years working closely with Lexcel accredited firms.

The main points I have gathered provide an interesting list of considerations for those firms wishing to go for Lexcel for the first time, and those that feel they are currently working too hard to maintain the accolade, and perhaps are recognising they need to look for new software.

This is what we came up with:

LEXCEL CONSIDERATIONS FOR LAW FIRMS

  • Lexcel is an off-the-shelf formula firms can implement to improve all areas of legal practice
  • Lexcel certification lasts 3 years, but requires rigorous independent assessment annually, making it a significant, long-term commitment.
  • The Law Society charges an annual Lexcel registration fee (currently between £78 and £896.40 at the time of publishing this article) depending on the size of the Practice. In addition, firms need to pay an annual assessment fee directly to the independent assessment body of their choice, who are free to define their own charging structures.
  • Lexcel provides a well-proven structure for people to follow consistently and is probably one of the most effective ways to improve the running of your legal business.
  • If a firm does not have the right tools in place, projects like going for Lexcel, can distract from what is the top priority for any law firm, serving clients and generating fees.
  • It requires focused commitment in terms of mind-set, and a significant investment in time and effort – but much can be done with LAWFUSION configuration to automate key processes, which saves a significant amount of time and makes life a whole lot easier.
  • Half-heartedness is not an option, the whole firms needs to be onboard in terms of using the software to its full potential by showing a keen interested in how the software can be configured to help.
  • No suite of software will achieve the accreditation for a law firm, but if configured properly, it can certainly make assessment easier. Partner, Stephen Oldridge, from one of our longest-established clients, Bridge McFarland, told us in a case study interview that “Lexcel is a breeze with LAWFUSION.”
  • Lexcel is a team effort, box-ticking is not an option, it must permeate the whole practice.
  • Buy-in is required across the board, as without it, achieving Lexcel can be a painful process, and losing accreditation once a firm has had it, obviously doesn’t look or feel good.
  • A successful Lexcel accreditation is a commendable achievement, which can be used effectively in firm’s marketing material.
  • It can be a significant morale booster. It gives the whole team something to be proud of and is something to be celebrated.
  • It adds a credible level of competitive advantage and will generate a number of new opportunities for accredited firms. Clients will be impressed when they see the Lexcel logo associated with an accredited firm when they search for you online, e.g. via the Law Society’s ‘find-a-solicitor‘ web pages.
  • If desired, it will open doors for Legal Aid contracts, as firms wishing to apply for them must have either Lexcel or the Legal Aid Agency’s Specialist Quality Mark.
  • It is entirely separate from regulatory compliance and should be treated as such, but it makes sense that if a firm puts its house in order to achieve Lexcel, it should be in a good position to achieve compliance in terms of other industry requirements, as they often go hand-in-hand.
  • Although a considerable undertaking, our clients often tell us the benefits of Lexcel significantly outweigh the costs.

THE SEVEN AREAS OF PRACTICE FOR LEXCEL ASSESSMENT ARE: 

  • Client Care:
    – Communication with clients at matter take on, including terms of business and cost estimates
    – Complaints handling procedures and processes to monitor / analyse client complaints
  • Risk Management:
    – Policies and procedures governing the risks in delivering advice, including accepting and managing new work, supervision, outsourcing, conflict management, adhering to key dates and operational risks
    – Procedures for regular, independent file reviews and anti-money laundering
  • People Management:
    – Role profiles and inductions for all personnel
    – Learning and development plans for all personnel, including performance management
    – Procedures to manage recruitment, selection and progression
    – Management of personnel leaving the practice
  • Structure & Strategy:
    – Definition of the longer-term strategy and annual objectives
    – A disaster recovery plan to avoid business interruption
  • Financial Management:
    – Robust financial management procedures to aid tracking performance against targets
  • Information Management:
    – Policies to manage information exchange and assets ensuring compliance with data protection legislation
    – Central register of all plans, policies and procedures and a named person responsible for their management and updating
  • File & Case Management:
    – Procedures to ensure matters are effectively managed and progressed and closed
    – Procedures for using third parties

Select Legal Systems provides robust tools across all seven areas of Lexcel. Law firms don’t have to take our word for it either, again, please check out this case study, from one of our longest-established clients – Bridge McFarland – who tell us what they think about LAWFUSION for Lexcel.

A DIFFERENT ANGLE  FOR A LEXCEL-FOCUSED SOFTWARE DEMONSTRATION

A good legal software supplier should offer tools to help law firms manage all seven areas, however, firms interested in going for Lexcel, it might be worth approaching the demonstration process from a slightly different angle. Instead of show me ‘how I would produce a client care letter’ or ‘how would I log a complaint’, it might be worth asking software suppliers to show you  “examples of how the software will help the firm with…”

  • … reducing complaints
  • … reducing mistakes
  • … increasing client retention
  • … improving profitability
  • … achieving regulatory compliance
  • … saving time
  • … working smarter
  • … improving efficiency

GOLD STANDARD

The Law Society’s quality mark for law firms (and inhouse legal departments) in the UK and internationally, is designed to provide a clear benchmark for best practice and is deemed the gold standard for the industry by many. Our talented team of legal software developers have carefully considered Lexcel’s objectives and offers a whole raft of functionality that is aligned, saving time, improving efficiency and making Lexcel easier to achieve.

So for any firm wishing to go for Lexcel for the first time, or those finding its teams are working far too hard to maintain its accreditation, a fully integrated suite of software, such as LAWFUSION with all its time-saving features and automation options, should be considered. For an overview of what LAWFUSION offers for firms going for Lexcel, please visit our ‘Lexcel Made Easier With LAWFUSION’ page here.

To book a demonstration of the fully integrated suite of LAWFUSION software and to discuss how it can make your Lexcel assessments easier, please call 01482 567601 between 9am-5.30pm. At all other times, the LAWFUSION book-a-demo form is available here.

Select Legal Systems Limited is part of the Access Legal Group.