Welcome to our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section. Here you will find answers to questions about SQM and the Delivery Partnership.

Who will be carrying out my audit?

The Legal Aid Agency have awarded the contract to the SQM Delivery Partnership who will deliver the auditing service.

Who is the SQM Delivery Partnership?

SQM Delivery Partnership has been appointed as the National Auditing Body by the Legal Aid Agency to conduct Specialist Quality Mark (SQM) audits in England and Wales.

SQM Delivery Partnership has extensive experience of working within the Legal Sector through our work with other quality standards and have an established and accomplished reputation for delivering excellent service. We work closely with the Legal Aid Agency and therefore have a valuable insight into its preferred methods and practices.

How much Will the audit cost?

Please see the pricing guidance on the Specialist Quality Mark page of the website.

How do I apply for my audit?

Please complete the application form on the website and return it to the address shown. Someone from the SQM Delivery Partnership will then be in touch to discuss your visit in more detail.

What changes have been made to the SQM Standard?

The revisions are quite minor, and have made the standard more generic, reflecting changes in terminology and law.  The most significant change is the revision to the Equality and Diversity requirements.

How can I find out what changes have been made?

The paper summarising the changes can be found on the Specialist Quality Mark page of the website.

Do the changes make the standard more difficult to achieve or maintain?

The changes do not raise or lower the standards set by the Quality Mark. The Legal Aid Agency are confident that the level the standard is pitched at is appropriate and provided effective quality assurance.

My firm holds SQM and Lexcel.  Which do I need for my LAA contract?

Providers can hold either standard for the purposes of their LAA Contract. In accordance with Legal Aid Agency requirements, you will need to possess an up to date quality management standard in order to obtain a future Legal Aid contract. Under these new arrangements you are required to have obtained or retained the SQM standard or Lexcel quality management standard.

Do I need to have a Peer Review of my files completed before I can apply for my SQM Audit?

Peer Reviews are carried out by the Legal Aid Ageny (LAA), and they will notify you when one needs to take place.  They are not a requirement as part of the SQM audit.  Should you have any further questions regarding Peer Reviews, please contact your LAA Relationship Manager who will be able to advise you.

What will the auditor be checking for when they carry out file reviews during the audit?

The auditor will be working through a checklist for each file.  Click here to view a copy of the checklist.

Is there a checklist to assist me in preparing for my SQM Audit?

The SQM Self Assessment Checklist will enable you to compare your processes and procedures against the requirements of the standard 2013 click here to download a copy.

What documentary evidence is required for the Desktop Audit?

As discussed, the purpose of the SQM Desktop audit is to confirm that you have the processes and procedures in place as required by the SQM Quality Standard. To enable us to carry out the audit, we will need to go through your processes and procedures 2013 these could be contained in your Office Manual or be stand alone documents. The following areas will be reviewed:

  • Your Business Plan
  • Equality and Diversity Policy
  • Signposting and Referral procedures
  • Organisation Structure 2013 this should identify all members of staff, their job titles, and lines of responsibility
  • Recruitment Process
  • Induction Process
  • Appraisal Process
  • Systems for supervision
  • File Management procedures
  • Supervisor file review processes and procedures
  • Process for selection and evaluation of suppliers
  • Complaints Procedure
  • Client Feedback Procedure
  • Office Manual

Information for review can be submitted by e-mail or by post. Following the desktop review, you will receive a full report on the outcomes.

Who will be in scope for an SQM audit?

Anyone who comes in to contact with a Legally Aided client or file so would include reception and support staff in certain cases. FTE is a 35 hour week equivalent.

What qualifications are required for Supervisors?

In accordance with the standard requirements, each supervisor must meet one of the following supervisory skills standards:

a. Assessed as working at Level 3 or higher (within the NVQ framework) in relevant elements of the national standards


b. Training covering key supervisor skills completed in the 12 months immediately preceding the Quality Mark application


c. Able to demonstrate experience as an effective supervisor (covering supervision of all work done in the department) of at least one full time member of staff (or equivalent) for at least one year in the last five years.

The standard reference is D3.2. Further information can be found in the Standard Guidance. We suggest that you read this before discussing with your LAA Relationship Manager. Please note that SQM Delivery Partnership are not able to recommend courses as we are not allowed to offer advice.

How long is my SQM accreditation valid for?

Once you have completed your SQM Post Audit, and all corrective actions have been signed off by your auditor, you will receive a certificate from the SQM Delivery Partnership.  Your accreditation will be valid for 3 years from the date on your certificate.  You will need to have booked a re-audit with the Delivery Partnership before your certificate expires, by completing an SQM Audit Application Form.

How do I make a complaint?

Click here to download the Complaints Policy