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Accredited specialisation: Celebrating 25 years of criminal law specialist accreditation

Accredited specialisation: Celebrating 25 years of criminal law specialist accreditation

By Law Institute Journal

Communication Practice & Procedure 


VLA is proud to be associated with the LIV criminal law Accredited Specialistion Scheme which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

As the LIV celebrates the 25th anniversary of criminal law accredited specialisation, Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) is proud to have 62 lawyers who have been certified as accredited specialists by the LIV – 31 in criminal law, 14 in children’s law, 12 in family law, three in migration law and two in administrative law.

VLA professional support managing lawyer Hala Atwa said accredited specialists are recognised as experts in their field among the community and their legal peers.

“Specialist accreditation through the LIV is a genuine marker of excellence and provides an independent and comprehensive way of measuring that a lawyer has the requisite knowledge, experience and expertise to provide high quality legal advice and assistance in their area of specialisation.

“It also enables lawyers to have their expertise nationally recognised,” said Ms Atwa.

There has been a long tradition of VLA staff undertaking criminal law specialisation, and in 2012 it extended its support to those undertaking specialisation to community legal centre lawyers and private practitioners who are involved in the delivery of legally aided services to VLA clients. This was designed to support lawyers who needed to earn specialist accreditation as a condition of entry onto the VLA section 29A panel.

While VLA also offers study support for lawyers undertaking family, children’s law and administrative law, the criminal law study support program is the largest, and regularly supports close to 30 candidates. VLA professional support lawyers work closely with the LIV to ensure a coordinated delivery of the program. The crime program draws heavily on the expertise and knowledge of the public defenders in VLA Chambers who deliver lectures, workshops and study intensives to candidates. The study program also fosters close relationships with lawyers from different organisations and private firms, which endure long after specialisation exams are over.

LIV accredited specialisation manager Elissa Cohan believes the close partnership has been beneficial in providing support for lawyers undertaking accredited specialisation.

“The LIV is proud to work with VLA in fostering the support available to candidates undertaking accreditation in criminal law, and the collaboration has been beneficial in assisting candidates to prepare for their accreditation assessments.

“This support includes joint information sessions promoting the benefits of the program, coordinated communications to prospective and current candidates about joining VLA’s intensive study support program and a review of assessment topics to help develop the program,” said Ms Cohan.

VLA and LIV congratulate the following specialists who have celebrated 25 years of criminal law specialisation.

  • Bernard Keating, Slink & Keating
  • Leanne Warren, Leanne Warren & Associates
  • James Cahill, Cahill Legal Consultants
  • Andrew George, Doogue & George Lawyers
  • George Defteros, Defteros Lawyers, Barristers and Solicitors
  • Mark Woods, Tyler, Tipping & Woods
  • Anthony Isaacs
  • Peter Ward, Galbally & O’Bryan Lawyers
  • Anthony Robinson, Dwyer Legal Warrnambool Pty Ltd
  • Tony Danos
  • Zygmunt Zayler, Melasecca Kelly & Zayler Barristers and Solicitors
  • Chester Metcalfe, Chester Metcalfe & Co
  • Robert Stary, Stary Norten Halphen Criminal Law Specialist
  • Peter Murphy, Warren Graham & Murphy Pty Ltd
  • Brendan Wilkinson.

Ms Atwa is an enthusiastic advocate of accredited specialisation and its benefits for lawyers and clients alike.

“The study required to become an accredited specialist is extensive and genuinely tests candidates’ skills and knowledge of criminal law and practice. The examination process is challenging and rigorous, which is why specialist accreditation is regarded as a reliable indicator of professional competence.

“We continue to support accredited specialisation because it aligns with our aims to provide legally aided clients with quality legal services, and I thoroughly recommend the program to lawyers seeking to broaden their knowledge of the law,” she said. ■

This is an edited version of an article published on the VLA website in December 2020.

The LIV Accredited Specialisation Scheme is offered across 16 areas of specialisation. In 2021, examinations will be administered in a remote digital format and the following areas will be examined: administrative law, commercial tenancy law, costs law, family law, mediation, personal injury law, property law and tax law. Information

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