Sharmans is independently audited to ensure that we continue to deliver the highest standards in client care and professional service, to give you peace of mind that your case will be handled expertly, and that your interests will come first.
Better service - independently audited quality assured law firms
A good lawyer must be expert in the law; that goes without saying. But we also need to show a firm commitment to providing a clear, practical legal service with the highest quality procedures in place, giving you peace of mind that your case will be handled expertly. You can be confident that LawNet firms provide this, as every LawNet member is hand-picked, giving you confidence that you will receive only the best advice and services – quickly, efficiently, and at the right cost.
Every LawNet member must secure and maintain the LawNet ISO9001:2008 quality assurance standard – which includes regular independent evaluation, providing in-depth analysis of our performance and recommendations for continuous improvement to ensure customers receive the best possible service.
Better resources - local service, national resources
The combined income of the 65 firms comprising LawNet is currently in excess of £250m – equivalent to a UK Top 15 law firm – with members ranging from £2m to £20m turnover. It enables the network to provide LawNet firms with access to the types of resources normally only available in the largest firms. This means that customers benefit from a superior legal service combining local knowledge and personal detail backed by a depth and breadth of expertise comparable with the biggest law firms in the country.
Better connected - network of over 2,000 solicitors
As a LawNet member firm we are part of a network of over 2,000 lawyers across the UK, and with links across Europe through the Eurojuris network. Everyone in the network is committed to sharing expertise, knowledge and best practice, which ensures that you benefit from the experience and resources of not just your solicitor but the entire network.
LawNet does not seek to profit from its members, only to see them grow and be successful in their local market. Please visit www.lawnet.co.uk for more information.
Client Service Charter
Firms with the LawNet Mark of Excellence are committed to providing their clients with the highest standards of care and advice.
Our commitments to you:
- We are committed to listening, understanding and helping you achieve your goals
- We will ask you what you think about our service which may include asking you to complete a client satisfaction survey.
- We will avoid jargon and use plain english explaining any necessary legal terms
- We will communicate with you in the way you prefer
- We will tell you how long we expect things to take and update you regularly on progress
- If you contact us we will respond or acknowledge receipt of your communication promptly; and wherever possible within one working day
- If the issue is more time sensitive or you tell us you need a response in a particular timeframe we will endeavour to meet your requirements.
Looking after you
- All our clients are valued and important
- We will let you know who will be working with you and give you their direct contact details
- We will let you know what to do if you need to contact us out of office hours
- We are committed to providing excellent service that takes your needs into account
- We will be friendly, approachable and professional.
- We will be open and transparent about our fees at all times, providing fixed fees where possible
- Where not possible, we will give you the best information that we can on the likely total cost of your case at the outset
- Should anything alter we will contact you before we incur any additional costs
- Any bill we send you will be clear, describing the work done and amount charged.
- Our firm is committed to ensuring that our clients are central to everything we do
- We will ensure our people are properly resourced and have the appropriate training
- When assigning the right person to your case we will take into account your needs, expectations and budget
- We are committed to providing a positive working environment for our people
- Our firm is regularly audited to ensure we maintain the high standards required to maintain the quality marks we hold
- We will check we are providing excellent service by regularly monitoring client satisfaction with mystery shopping and asking clients what they think.
To provide you with excellent service, we need you to
- Tell us what your objectives are and be clear about your expectations
- Respond as soon as possible to any requests for information
- Let us know straight away if anything changes
- Work co-operatively with us to set and achieve realistic timescales
- Appreciate that we have to follow a strict professional code of conduct
- Help us to keep working for you by paying our invoices on time
- Let us know if we are not providing you with the service you expected.
If things go wrong
- If things go wrong or you are less than happy with our service please tell us immediately - we welcome your feedback as it helps us provide a better service
- If we cannot resolve the problem we will let you know who to contact with your concerns.
We have once again secured the Law Society’s law management quality mark, Lexcel, which we are proud to have held continuously since 2009 when we were the first firm in Bedford to achieve such a prestigious accreditation.
This accreditation is developed specifically for the legal profession. It is an optional, recognised accreditation scheme for law firms and in-house legal departments which gives assurance that a practice meets high client care and business management standards. This accreditation applies to all legal work done within the practice except for mediation work as this area is not assessed by Lexcel.
To gain and retain this accreditation, the practice must undergo a rigorous initial assessment process which is repeated annually. This includes conducting background checks and an on-site visit from an experienced and trained assessor.
Ann Pryer, one of the partners of Sharmans said:
“Whilst we are proud to have secured this accreditation, it is our clients and staff who are the main beneficiaries. They can be assured that the way we manage the practice has their interests at heart and runs efficiently. There is a lot of choice in the legal service market, but being Lexcel accredited demonstrates our commitment to client care and best practice.”
Andrew Caplen, President of the Law Society of England & Wales, said:
“Gaining and maintaining this accreditation is no mean feat. There are many facets of being a Lexcel accredited law firm, including client care. A commitment to customer service in today’s evermore competitive legal services market is vital. By undergoing the rigorous Lexcel application and assessment process practices can show the positive steps they are taking to help clients in the increasingly diverse complicated legal services market. The scheme is a beacon of quality to clients and potential clients alike.”
There are more than 1500 other legal practices in England & Wales with this accreditation. The practice management accolade has also become international, with firms as far afield as in Scotland, and the Middle East, Poland and the Republic of Ireland having gained accreditation.
The firm was assessed by director of LexConex Limited and Lexcel assessor Michael Johnson. Following the assessment in December 2020, he said:
"In that first week of December 2020, I carried out the Lexcel Re-Assessment of Sharmans. As many readers will be familiar, Lexcel (now version 6.1) is the Law Society’s demanding Quality Standard for Law Firms. It sets out 210 distinct quality benchmarks (with much filigree sub-detail and interlinkage) for Lexcel Law Firms to meet. If Firms exceed those stringent requirements, they can then be awarded Areas of Good Practice.
As this Re-Assessment took place amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, the Firm had to demonstrate compliance virtually by videoconferencing technology and secure transmission of documents and records, so of course on top of everything else, Sharmans also had to demonstrate their ability and proficiency to operate in this remote way.
Well, how did they do?
• I was very pleased to include in my Report Summary, the following section: “Another resounding demonstration of Lexcel v6.1 compliance, built on years of attention to growing compliance requirements in the legal sector, and observance throughout the year as an intrinsic element in working practices. Compliance buy-in throughout the Firm and at both Offices (including where staff are currently working from home). Soundly embedded culture of reporting up. Strong and assertive leadership by Partners, compassionately delivered. Longstanding and loyal staff who have demonstrated flexibility, adaptability and resilience in these uncertain and trying times.”
• Out of the 210 requirements of the Lexcel Standard, there was a single one, and that only applies in very narrow circumstances, that needed brushing up, and this was swiftly satisfied during the assessment itself. It came as no surprise that Sharmans dealt with it so quickly, taking it as an opportunity to improve. As their assessor, and after 2.5 days of questioning, probing and searching, I could not find any other areas requiring brushing up.
• More to the point, I very easily identified some 67 Areas of Good Practice ranging across all 7 sections of the Lexcel Standard.
What does it mean to Clients if a Law Firm meets and exceeds the Lexcel Standard? It means that the Firm is annually assessed by an independent assessor on behalf of The Law Society who is looking to see that the 7 sections of Lexcel are being fully met. They are:
o Business Planning and Strategy, for example so that the Firm can continue to operate and serve clients over Lockdowns, and so that the Firm maintains and develops legal services that it wishes to offer to established clients and also to new clients.
o Strategic financial management, and reliable systems for dealing with day-to-day financial transactions for example so that bank transfers go out on time on clients’ house moves.
o Robust systems and procedures for information security and data protection, for example in respect of client’s personal data.
o That the Firm looks after and supports its Staff, their well-being, their development and professional progression. The fact that so many Staff have been with the Firm for decades speaks volumes about their job satisfaction, and knowledge of the law, its application, the circumstances and requirements of long-standing clients, and how best to serve new clients coming to Sharmans.
o That the Firm is alive to a wide variety of Risks that can affect any business, not just Law Firms, and is swift to manage down those risks if not eliminate them.
o That the Firm looks after its clients in the service that it gives, progresses their Matters to the best of their abilities, keeps clients informed and gives estimates anticipating really important questions such as “how long is this going to take” and “how much is this going to cost”. The Firm must also demonstrate how it properly
addresses any concerns raised by clients, or clarifies misunderstandings.
o Efficient management of clients’ Matters and Cases, and careful instruction of barristers and experts where required, in consultation with relevant clients.
Those 7 bullet points represent a broad overview of the Lexcel Standard – you can imagine how testing it is once all 210 distinct requirements are inserted, with necessary sub-detail and interlinkage between those 7 bullet points.
Yet again, Sharmans has done very well indeed at its Lexcel Assessment 2020. It is never a given. It takes years of dedication and commitment to providing a quality service, honed and polished as a continuing process. I look forward to carrying out Sharmans’ next assessment. The hurdle could be higher as rumours of an even more demanding version of the Lexcel Standard are in the air.
Michael Johnson, Lexcel Assessor (Solicitor, now non-practising). "