The Law Society last week finally launched its Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS) last week with a warning to the profession that it needs to act to halt the fall in its market share.
Modelled on the Conveyancing Quality Scheme, the WIQS is open to all practices regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, meaning that The Co-operative Legal Services will be able to seek accreditation, along with the likes of the AA and Saga if and when their applications to become alternative business structures (ABSs) are approved – even though the scheme is meant to help traditional solicitors’ firms fight competition from organisations such as these.
Speaking to Legal Futures shortly before the launch, Law Society chief executive Des Hudson acknowledged that the WIQS does not have an imperative behind it in the way that CQS does for conveyancers who want to remain on many lenders’ panels.
But he said: “What I think our members need to be looking at is that in small numbers, our market share for probate matters is falling, and has been falling for some years. The quality and the level and intensity of competition for will writing and probate are growing and we have some very significant competitors out there…
“I’ve gone on record in saying that whatever we may wish, whatever we may prefer it to be, the idea that simply saying ‘I’m a solicitor, that’s enough’ is not going to work at the current time.”
WIQS will open for applications on 31 October ahead of launch to the public in January 2014. Firms have to pay £350 plus £30 per individual covered in the application. There are also two mandatory training sessions for every individual (costing £40 each for Law Society members and £60 for non-members), as well as a further £30 training session for the senior reporting officer each practice needs to have (all prices plus VAT).
The 83-page best practice protocol underlying the scheme is free to download or can be bought as a book for £39.95, and there will be a management toolkit published for £49.95.
The society said applicants will undergo “a rigorous assessment”, and will be required to undertake self-reporting, random audits and annual reviews in order to maintain the new status.
Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said: “The aim of the scheme is to reinforce set standards of practice and client care when providing will drafting, probate and estate administration services. At the heart of this and other Law Society accreditations is consumer reassurance, demonstrating a commitment to putting their needs first and delivering the highest levels of service…
“This exacting scheme assures consumers who wish to prepare a will or to manage the administration of their estate, two of the biggest decisions of most people’s lives, that not only are they using a regulated solicitors’ firm but one specifically endorsed for high standards in this area.”
For more information on the WIQS, see . Legal Futures’ exclusive interview with Des Hudson will be published in full this week.