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Accredited specialisation milestone

Briefs

Cite as: March 2014 88 (03) LIJ, p.16

The LIV’s accredited specialisation program celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

An important milestone in the history of the LIV, the anniversary will be celebrated with an event in November. There is also the possibility the scheme will be expanded to incorporate a new tier of accreditation which will focus on skills specific to particular segments of the legal profession. Expert witnesses, solicitor advocates and government lawyers are among areas under consideration by the Specialisation Board for an expanded accreditation scheme.

The LIV’s accredited specialisation manager Elissa Cohan said: “This is a very exciting development. It will allow the scheme to extend its reach and impact with areas within the legal profession which don’t fit within the current framework of the scheme. The scheme will continue to evolve into the future to ensure that it remains innovative, contemporary and relevant to legal practitioners and the public”.

The LIV’s accredited specialisation program has more than 970 accredited specialist practitioners across 16 areas of specialisation. They are recognised as having an enhanced skill level, as well as substantial involvement in established legal specialty areas. They are required to demonstrate superior knowledge, experience and proficiency in a particular area of law via a rigorous three tiered assessment process to ensure that recognition as an accredited specialist is meaningful and reliable.

The scheme was first introduced to benefit the public and other lawyers by:

  • offering a reliable and easier way of finding a lawyer with special competence in particular areas of law;
  • providing incentive and opportunity for lawyers to reach and maintain higher levels of expertise in their area of specialist practice;
  • encouraging improvement in the quality, speed and cost efficiency of legal services; and
  • protecting consumer rights by helping consumers to easily recognise lawyers who are trained and competent in the work they have entrusted them to do.

LIV CEO Michael Brett Young said the LIV’s pioneering accredited specialisation program, which was launched in 1989, was an example of the LIV leading the way for Victoria’s solicitors. The NSW and WA law societies launched their schemes in 1992 and the Queensland Law Society introduced its specialisation program in 1995.

“The program has been well utilised by practitioners from its first days in 1989. Lawyers immediately saw the benefits of specialising, of drilling down into a particular area of law, adding to their knowledge and expertise. Clients saw it, too, and every year we have thousands of members of the public asking us for referrals to solicitors with specialist knowledge,” Mr Brett Young said.

Family law was the first area of accreditation offered. A quarter of a century later, of the 54 family law practitioners who successfully completed the first program, 25 remain specialists.

“This is a pretty remarkable feat and a testament to both their level of commitment to the scheme and the high regard their accreditation is held in,” Ms Cohan said.

She acknowledged the remarkable contribution made by past and present Specialisation Board members and Advisory Committee members.

“There are currently close to 200 LIV accredited specialists who volunteer their time to be involved on the 18 committees that sit under the Specialisation Scheme, including the Specialisation Board and 17 advisory committees. The work that is done by these members is nothing short of remarkable and continues to inspire me and make me incredibly proud to be associated with such people. I can’t thank them enough for what they contribute and for the difference they make.”

To apply for accredited specialisation, practitioners must be a member of the LIV, have a current practising certificate, at least five years experience in practice, substantial involvement in the area of practice over the past three years and successful completion of the assessment program.

Areas of accredited specialisation offered in 2014 are business law, commercial litigation, children’s law, criminal law, environment and planning law, immigration law, mediation, wills and estates and workplace relations.

In 2015, areas of accredited specialisation offered will be administrative law, commercial tenancy, costs law, family law, property law and tax law.

Key Dates

31 March Special consideration and scholarship applications close (There will be two categories of scholarships offered – practitioners working for community legal centres and practitioners working as sole practitioners or in firms with less than five employees. Scholarships are valued at almost $2000).

11 April Standard applications close.

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