If you have questions about any aspect of the application or accreditation process, get in touch with Patricia Wilson at email@example.com or 0131 476 8123.
What is a specialist?
The Council of the Law Society of Scotland’s system of accreditation of specialists by a suitably qualified Accreditation Panel confers specialist status on solicitors who can demonstrate expertise gained from practising in the specialism and can show significant experience in that specialism. The Panel is made up of solicitor members experienced in this area of the law who are drawn from a range of government, public sector, private practice and other relevant organisations.
How do I assess my fitness to become a specialist?
This is a complex issue and we receive regular calls on this issue. We would not wish to discourage anyone from applying for accreditation but we would encourage applicants with the right level of qualifications and experience and discourage applicants applying before they are ready. If you are in any doubt, please feel free to contact the team for guidance but you might find it helpful to ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I feel that I have the knowledge and experience in this area of the law to be regarded as capable beyond the ordinary?
- Do my colleagues in the organisation regard me as knowledgeable in this area and do they seek out my advice and guidance with problem cases?
- Do my peers in other organisations and/or practising in other disciplines regard me as extra knowledgeable in this area and do they seek out my advice and guidance with problem cases?
- Do I present in-house or external seminars on this area of law?
- Have I written items on this area of law for in-house distribution, a web site, newspapers or legal publications?
- Is much of my caseload complex and unusual as opposed to routine standard matters?
- Do I work autonomously as opposed to being a junior member of a larger team?
The questions above are presented as a guide to those considering whether or not you ought to apply to become an accredited specialist. If you can answer three of these questions in the affirmative, it may be worth preparing an application for submission. If you can answer all in the affirmative, you should certainly consider applying.
You should have a trusted colleague review your application for you and give a frank analysis of whether that they feel it adequately makes your case. It is often worth taking another year or so to flesh out the balance of your skills before making an application if in doubt
Competence and relevant experience
To be eligible to apply, applicants should be able to demonstrate significant experience in the area of the specialism during each of the five years preceding the application. This experience should all be post-qualification experience. This means it will run from the date that the applicant qualified as a solicitor, which will be from the date a solcitor's training contract was discharged, regardless of whether they were admitted as a solicitor during their traineeship.
‘Significant experience’ is assessed by the Panel taking into consideration activity over the last 5 years in, among other factors, the following areas in assessing applicant’s fitness to be accredited:
(a) Proportion of time/chargeable hours spent in work in area of specialism.
(b) Complexity of cases. (Ideally submit 15 using the schedule style running to no more than 5 pages).
(c) Role in those cases (lead solicitor, instructing Counsel, part of team etc).
(d) Attendance at suitable training course (including in-house courses where appropriate). (Ideally details over the last 5 years concentrating on last 2 years)
(e) Participation in teaching at training courses (including in-house courses where appropriate). (Ideally details over the last 5 years concentrating on last 2 years)
(f) Authorship of books, articles, website and in-house materials.
(g) Discipline, complaints and claims record.
(i) Other relevant matters.
Applying for more than one specialism
Please ensure to submit applications specifically relating to each specialism avoiding overlap in cases/matters.
Material should be submitted using the style schedules and restricted to approximately 10 to 15 cases matters. There is no need to submit copy course papers, file papers or documents although the Panel reserve the right to request these.
All submitted information will be treated in the strictest of confidence by the Accreditation Panel.
Applicants should give particulars of two referees with appropriate knowledge and standing in the area of specialism.
Applicants should submit the 2 Reference forms direct to their chosen referees inviting them to complete the forms and return them direct to the Society marked for the attention of Patricia Wilson, Education, Training and Qualifications team. Referees should note that they may be called upon to give further information. The independence and professional standing of the referees will be taken into account. References from clients or colleagues in your organisation will accordingly not carry the same weight as a wholly independent reference.
Panel members are not permitted to give references.
Period of accreditation
If the application is successful, the applicant will be accredited as a specialist in the chosen specialism for a period of five years, and will be entitled to apply for renewal of the accreditation at the end of that period. The onus is on the applicant to apply for re-accreditation, no less than two months in advance of expiry. Re-accreditation will run from the expiry date notwithstanding the date of a Panel’s meeting or consideration of an application.
The fee to apply to be accredited or re-accredited is £300 plus VAT (£360). The fee is non-returnable.
Applicants should advise the Panel of the details of any complaint or claims intimated to them which has been made against them or their firm as a result of their actings in the course of the last five years. The Law Society of Scotland may delay making a decision on the application until any such complaint or claim has been decided or resolved.
Waiver to guidelines/regulations
Any guideline or regulation or condition relating to accreditation may be relaxed or waived in exceptional circumstances on application to the Accreditation Panel. Please contact the Secretary to the Accreditation Panel if you wish to apply for a waiver.
Accreditation is by means of a process of assessment and adjudication by the Panel. The Panel reserves the right to request that an applicant attend an interview.
Suspension of accreditation
Applicants should be aware that the Council of the Law Society of Scotland may suspend the accreditation before the expiry of the five year period. This may take place if circumstances come to the attention of the Council which would make this course of action appropriate. Accreditation shall cease without notice if, at any time, the applicant does not hold an unrestricted practising certificate.
- An accreditation will be automatically suspended and without notice if the individual’s practising certificate is suspended for any reason.
- Where an accredited specialist’s practising certificate is restricted for any reason, the Accreditation Panel will be asked to consider what action should be taken in relation to that accreditation. This may include suspension or removal of the accreditation. If this happens the accredited specialist shall be given 21 days-notice of a referral to the Panel and will be entitled to make representations in writing or (if the panel meets in person) in person.
Any accredited specialist whose accreditation is suspended or withdrawn after consideration by the Panel shall have a right to appeal against this decision.
Refusal of an application
In the event of the Panel refusing an application, the applicant may ask the Panel to review their decision within 21 days of intimation of that refusal and may submit additional material in support of their request.
In the event their review results in a further refusal, they can appeal that decision in writing to the Appeal Panel within 21 days of intimation of that further refusal and the Panel of first instance will make all information relating to the decision available to the Appeal Panel for that purpose. An appeal after a review can only be made one or more specific grounds as follows:
- A material change in circumstances not considered by the original Panel
- New evidence not considered by the original Panel
- An error in fact or law reflected in the decision of the original Panel
There is an appeal form which must complete be completed.
Appeals regarding Arbitration specialism and Approved Solicitor Arbitrators may be appealed separately. However, due to their interdependency, if Arbitration specialism is revoked/not renewed, Approved Solicitor Arbitrator status (and any right of appeal in respect to Approved Solicitor Arbitrator status) is lost.
The Society recommends that applicants create a file and put notes of interesting cases/authorship/presentations over the next 5 years into it to assist with an application for renewal of an accreditation.
The Society recommends that applicants put a reminder in their diary a minimum of 3 months before expiry of an accreditation to ensure that the applicant applies for renewal of their accreditation in good time.
Equality & diversity
The Society has an equality and diversity strategy that covers all elements of its work, including the requirements around specialism. If an applicant needs any adjustments made to the standard procedure then please contact Patricia Wilson to discuss options.
Approved Solicitor Arbitrators
Approved Solicitor Arbitrators are authorised under statute (2010 Act) and require additional steps in the accreditation:
Applicants must hold a current specialist accreditation in arbitration law.
They must demonstrate very specific experience in relation to arbitration awards by providing:
- Details of two anonymised Arbitration Awards delivered in the five years preceding the date of this application. AND/OR
- Evidence of relevant decision making in Judicial or quasi-judicial roles, eg Temp Sheriff or Tribunal Chair. AND/OR
- Provide evidence of formal training such as Fellowship of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators or membership of the panel of arbitrators of the Family Law Arbitration Group or equivalent.
Candidates applying to become an Approved Solicitor Arbitrator should complete this application form.