Des Hudson of The Law Society looks at progress so far on the Conveyancing Quality Scheme.
Little more than a year ago the Law Society opened applications for membership of its Conveyancing Quality Scheme. We set ourselves the target of 600 member firms being signed up to the scheme by the end of 2011. We actually had almost 1000 firms as members by the end of the year, and are now approaching the 1500 mark.
I may be biased, but it is fair to say that CQS is a success. It is not only about high take up. The scheme has, in a short space of time, gained credibility in the conveyancing market. Some lenders now use the scheme as the starting point for panel membership. Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks will now only take CQS firms on its panels.
Elsewhere Santander requires new applicants to its panel to have attained the CQS quality standard mark, while Nationwide has said that when it re-opens its panel CQS will be a requirement.
The scheme continues to have support from the Council of Mortgage Lenders, the Building Society Association, Association of British Insurers and the Legal Ombudsman.
There are clear reasons why CQS has gained so much traction so quickly. It is a robust way of ensuring high standards in conveyancing and there is nothing to match it by comparison. Lender confidence in the scheme is growing.
Another reason that the scheme has grown was the unexpected publicity the scheme has secured since it launched. Consumers have become aware of what CQS is thanks to its growing presence in the media. This is a vital ingredient for making sure no one, lenders, estate agents and others in the market can ignore it.
Since the scheme launched in January 2011 it has been mentioned in 1500 media outlets, including mentions in The Times, Financial Times, The Guardian, Daily Express, BBC Radio Four, not to mention most local and regional media outlets. It has secured the highest amount of all Law Society media mentions over the last year and continues to do so. Recently, popular consumer finance website Moneysupermarket.com urged first time buyers to seek out a CQS solicitors.
Add to that the benefits of the Google advertising campaign we ran last year that saw 6457 consumers referrals from “clicking through” from our on – line advertising campaign to CQS solicitors. Since March 2012 callers to our Find a Solicitor campaign seeking help with conveyancing are directed first to CQS members. This generated more than 224 client referrals to CQS member firms in the first month of operation (March 2012).
So what? Does it matter that CQS and its member firms gain high levels of publicity? It does matter.
CQS is fast embedding itself in the consciousness of the public thanks to widespread media coverage. A growing number of CQS members tell us that business has increased since gaining CQS and marketing themselves as a CQS practise.
The publicity is just one benefit of CQS but there are many more.
As well as greater lender panel recognition, we are once again tendering, as we did last year, for a professional indemnity insurance (PII) package for CQS firms and Lexcel accredited firms to have exclusive access to competitive PII Insurance in good time for this year’s PII renewal round.
I have confidence in the scheme and am sure that by the end of 2012, possibly sooner, CQS will be a requirement for many more lender panels. As that happens not meeting CQs standards could be an obstacle to panel membership. The Society’s objective is to promote lender panels that are as open as possible, that we develop a pan industry solution to panel management and avoid the cost of multiple lender schemes and that Solicitors remain at the heart of the conveyancing business. CQS will play a large part in doing just that.
Desmond Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society