Legal Aid Agency quality standards

Legal aid providers: find out how the LAA sets quality assurance standards and make sure you qualify.


If you hold a legal aid contract with LAA you must have the SQM standard or the Lexcel Practice Management standard (Lexcel), owned by the Law Society.

The LAA owns the quality assurance standards known as Specialist Quality Mark (SQM).

Specialist Quality Mark

The Specialist Quality Mark (SQM) is a quality assurance standard designed for organisations:

  • supplying complex legal help
  • offering a full range of legal services, including representation in court (where necessary and permitted) by formally trained professionals

Delivering the audit Services of the SQM Standard

As of the 1 April 2017, Recognising Excellence Ltd took over the administration of the audit delivery services of the SQM Standard from its predecessor the SQM Delivery Partnership.

Recognising Excellence Ltd is responsible for undertaking:

  • any audits booked on/after 1 April 2017 required for future contracts with LAA
  • audits needed to retain an existing LAA contract on/after 1 April 2017

To book an SQM audit or for general queries relating to the SQM Standard, please contact

Please note that Recognising Excellence Ltd will charge to carry out an audit.

Amendments to the SQM audit process

A small number of changes have been made to the audit process for the SQM quality standard and all audits after 1 April 2017 will follow this process.

The headline changes to the content of the Award process are:

  • a reduction in stages of the audit award process;
  • an increase in requirements at the Pre-QM stage.

Further details can be found in .

More information

LAA Specialist Quality Mark standard

Withdrawal of the Family Mediation Quality Mark

The Family Mediation Quality Mark has been withdrawn from 1 September 2018.

Providers holding a 2018 Standard Civil Contract in the mediation category of law will be required to meet the quality requirements set out in the 2018 Standard Civil Contract category specific rules for mediation. This document is available to download here:

Standard Civil Contract 2018


We publish updates about the Specialist Quality Mark standards in the LAA bulletin.

Published 2 July 2014
Last updated 1 September 2018 + show all updates
  1. Changes to quality standards page following withdrawal of the family mediation quality mark

  2. SQM Standard and guidance updated.

  3. Information about changes to the SQM audit process from 1 April 2017 published.

  4. Updated documents added

  5. First published.