The Specialist Quality Mark (SQM) is owned by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) and was developed to help ensure that:
- Members of the public in need of specialist advice receive a quality service; and
- The LAA can be confident when procuring legal advice services that those Legal Service Providers with whom they are contracting with have effective quality management processes in place.
The SQM is primarily an organisational standard, designed to help ensure that Legal Services Providers are well run and provide excellent client care. Any Legal Service Provider operating at the specialist level can apply for the SQM, including those receiving funding from sources such as the LAA, local authorities, and charities, other public funding or private fees.
Several proxies are applied within the SQM framework, which whilst not direct measures of quality, are fundamental to the reliable delivery of a quality service, these include Supervision, Risk Management and File Reviews.
Compliance with the SQM, or an equivalent standard (i.e. Lexcel) is a requirement for Legal Services Providers that have, or are seeking to have, a contract with the LAA.