Family panel should select specialists

RULES of accreditation for the proposed family law panel should be stringent enough to ensure the public is offered a choice of lawyers who are true specialists in the area, says the Solicitors Family Law Association.

Association chair Nigel Shepherd, a partner in Manchester practice Lace Mawer, says there is a “very strong case” for the formation of the panel, proposed by the SFLA and the Law Society's Family Law committee.

But he says if the society approves the idea it should define strict standards for membership to make sure clients are provided with quality advice.

Solicitors should be called on to provide evidence that at least 40 per cent of their workload involves the practice of family law and Shepherd says they should also show that the percentage has stood at that level for a period of up to three years prior to application.

“You certainly don't want everybody who does a little bit of family law to be capable of being accredited,” says Shepherd.

“It has to have criteria which mean that the public is able to identify specialists.”

Shepherd says the SFLA is also concerned that legal aid franchising, “whilst clearly effective in many ways” is not in itself an effective mark of quality.

“We see accreditation as being something which can be used in conjunction with franchising,” he says.