The privately-funded bar has expressed its concerns over rumoured plans to force members to be accredited at a time when concrete proposals for accrediting publicly-funded barristers is on the agenda
Four specialist bar associations have spoken out against proposals for accrediting their members in a manner similar to the current accreditation of immigration practitioners. The Family Law Bar Association is against proposals being put forward by judges in the family division for those specialising in publicly-funded children's work to be accredited. Similar accreditation may also apply to criminal barristers, although as yet there are not believed to be any concrete proposals. Michael Brindle QC, chairman of the Commercial Bar Association (Combar), said: "The general idea is that the LSC (Legal Services Commission) is quite keen to generally introduce accreditation in areas where it is involved, so it could spread throughout the publicly-funded area." Concerning accreditation for privately-funded barristers, Brindle said: "There's no push to do it currently, but there is a feeling that we could be pushed into it. Privately-funded practitioners don't see the need for it. There's no LSC angle and we simply don't want to do it, as we see the Specialist Bar Association's job is to grade their members." He highlighted Combar, the Chancery Bar Association, the Technology & Construction Bar Association, and the Intellectual Property Bar Association as being opposed. However, it is said that not all Government-funded barristers are against the scheme, as their current low fee rates could improve once they become accredited. But immigration barristers on the whole, who currently have to be accredited if they are members of a specialist immigration set, do not approve. They are even more strongly against plans the Bar Council is inspecting in which only accredited immigration specialists can receive instructions from panel solicitors. The Immigration Practitioners Accreditation Board carries out six competence tests, which barristers have to pass to become accredited. They then have to become reaccredited within five years.