The Solicitors Family Law Association (SFLA) is to launch a “specialist” accreditation scheme for family lawyers – in direct competition with the Law Society's scheme.
The SFLA told its members this month that the scheme would finally go ahead early next year, after four years of planning.
The launch is likely to coincide with the launch of the Law Society family law accreditation scheme, which SFLA chair Rosemary Carter criticised as “not sufficiently specialist”.
Carter claimed the difference between the two schemes would be comparable to “the difference between a doctor and a consultant”, but stressed the SFLA and the Law Society were “not rivals”.
Carter said: “There are no quarrels between ourselves and the Law Society over this.”
She said the SFLA set up the scheme because of “concern about promoting standards” with “more stringent” accreditation requirements than the Law Society.
SFLA accreditation will be available in either child abduction or cohabitation work and will require the practitioner to have spent more than 550 hours a year on family law work and to have been qualified for five years.
By contrast, to win accreditation under the Law Society scheme, practitioners will only have to spend 350 hours on family law work in the previous three years.
The scheme will be run by a management committee of about 10 SFLA members, with an advisory board made up of academics, judges and SFLA representatives.