Our specialist accreditation scheme enables solicitors to promote to clients their expertise in a given area of the law. It is open to all solicitors who can demonstrate to a Law Society panel that they have significant experience in that specialism over the five years before they apply.
Specialist accreditation is about more than having worked in an area of law for five years. Accreditation recognises solicitors who have developed a particular expertise and a depth of knowledge in an area, and handle more complex work and cases. You might find it helpful to think about the following areas in deciding if you are ready to apply:
- Do you have the knowledge and experience in this area of the law to be regarded as capable beyond the ordinary?
- Do your colleagues and others regard you as knowledgeable in this area and do they seek out your advice and guidance with problem cases?
- Do you present in-house or external training or teach in the area of law?
- Do you write on this area of law for in-house distribution, a web site, newspapers or legal publications?
- Is much of your caseload complex and unusual as opposed to routine standard work?
- Do you work autonomously or lead a team as opposed to being a junior member of a larger team?
If you feel that you can answer yes to many of these points then you may wish to consider applying. Drafting an application and then asking a trusted colleague to review it may also be helpful.
Applications are assessed by a panel and are based on a demonstration of significant experience in your area of specialism during each of the five years preceding your application. This experience must be gained from the date you qualified as a solicitor – specifically your date of discharge.
‘Significant experience’ is a combination of different factors. Below is a list of factors that the panels take into consideration.
- Proportion of time/chargeable hours spent in work in area of specialism. Generally applicants would be expected to spend a significant amount of their time working in the area of the specialism, although there is no set number of hours or proportion of your work time required.
- Complexity of cases. The ideal submission would include anonymised details of 15 cases using the table format in the application form, running to no more than five pages.
- Role in those cases, that is whether the applicant was the lead solicitor, instructed Counsel, part of team etc.
- Attendance at suitable training course (including in-house courses where appropriate). Ideally applicants should provide details of training completed over the last five years and concentrate on training done within the two years prior to applying.
- Participation in teaching at training courses (including in-house courses where appropriate). Ideally applicants should provide details covering the teaching completed during the last five years and concentrate on the teaching completed in the two years prior to applying.
- Authorship of books, articles, website and in-house materials.
If you are successful in becoming an accredited specialist you will receive a certificate to confirm your accreditation, and the the right to use an exclusive badge on your website, letters, emails and for marketing. Your details in Find-A Solicitor will show that you are an accredited specialist.
Further information for applicants
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.
Any guideline, regulation or condition relating to accreditation may be relaxed or waived in exceptional circumstances on application to the Accreditation Panel. Please contact us if you wish to apply for a waiver.
All submitted information will be treated in the strictest of confidence by the Accreditation Panel.
The Panel may request that an applicant attend an interview.
As part of our equality and diversity strategy, please contact Patricia Wilson if you needs any adjustments to the standard procedure.
Applicants must give particulars of two referees with appropriate knowledge and standing in the area of specialism.
Applicants must pass the 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.
The fee to apply to be accredited or re-accredited is £300 plus VAT (£360). The fee is non-returnable.
Accreditation runs for a period of five years after which you are entitled to apply for renewal of the accreditation. You must 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.
We recommend that applicants create a file and put notes of interesting cases/authorship/presentations over the next five years into it to assist with an application for renewal of an accreditation.
We also recommend that applicants put a reminder in their diary a minimum of three months before expiry of an accreditation to ensure that the applicant applies for renewal of their accreditation in good time.
Approved Solicitor Arbitrators require additional steps in the accreditation:
Applicants must hold a current specialist accreditation in arbitration law.
You 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.
An application may be refused because the Panel feel that; the applicant has not met the requirements, there is insufficent evidence of expertise, the references weren't strong enough or there were complaints or claims against the applicant that would be contrary to holding a specialist status.
Applicants must advise the Panel of any complaint or claims which has been made against them or their firm as a result of their actings in the course of the last five years. We may delay making a decision on the application until any complaint or claim has been decided or resolved.
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.
We retain the right to suspend the accreditation before the expiry of the five year period. This may take place if circumstances come to our attention which would make this course of action necessary. Accreditation will stop without notice if, at any time, you do not hold an unrestricted pradctsing 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.