The Law Society has recently revoked the membership of 200 members of its accreditation schemes, it has revealed.
The society was responding to the surprise expressed last week by the Legal Services Consumer Panel that it had not appeared to expel anyone from any accreditation scheme over the past five years.
A spokeswoman said: “Expulsion from an accreditation scheme is a tool at our disposal. We have lately developed a system for checking a sample of members’ records to any given Law Society accreditation scheme. We also act on any information we receive about a member. Any member found not to continue to comply with the standards of membership will have their membership revoked.
“Although it’s true to say we haven’t expelled members, we have recently revoked membership of 200 members who no longer fitted the scheme criteria.”
The eight Law Society schemes assessed by the panel met few of the characteristics it thought such schemes should have. The spokeswoman responded: “In summer 2011, Law Society accreditation schemes were subject to an independent quality assurance study which touched on all the issues raised by the consumer panel.
“Since then, we have worked towards implementing the proposals for change, which will strengthen existing accreditation schemes. Our new governance structure, applicable to all Law Society accreditation schemes once implemented in 2012, will incorporate lay input and therefore consumers’ views and needs. A number of our schemes also have lay members sitting on technical advisory panels.
“Ongoing competency checks have already been established and we plan structured re-accreditation procedures for all schemes that currently do not have them. A re-launch for each scheme will make clear to consumers and professionals why they exist and the requirements upon members, as well as why they protect and inform the consumer. That re-launch will also enhance the benefits – webinars, events, CPD – available to our members.”
In the society’s initial response to the panel’s report, chief executive Des Hudson said that if the report’s recommendations would improve the schemes, “we will do so”. Chancery Lane will shortly start unannounced audit visits to members of its Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS), he said, “precisely what the report sensibly proposes”.
“CQS has also been designed to allow for ongoing development, so while the consumer panel’s report provides a useful snapshot of the current market, it doesn’t capture fully future Law Society plans which will see our accreditation schemes consistently evolving. We will shortly be announcing the CQS year two scheme details. I am confident that the improvements we are planning will serve the public, lenders and our members well.”