Accreditations

The idea of accreditation’s are that they are to help us to demonstrate our expertise. This helps potential clients choose who to instruct.

There are other factors to consider such as the strength in depth of expertise of the practice generally and how knowledge is shared within a team.

Accessibility is also important. There is little point instructing a lawyer if you are not able to meet/speak with them when you need to. Fortunately, in our case we are very accessible through a combination of a network across the South-West and our use of videoconferencing for meetings.

It is not possible throughout most experienced lawyers to represent everyone. We work as a team and most experienced lawyers work with our junior lawyers overseeing their work. All of our lawyers talk to each other. The advantage of having a large team is that we have lots of experience and there is always someone in the team off whom we are able to bounce ideas or ask for a second opinion.

Accreditation can be held by practice. In our case we hold the Lexcel accreditation.

Accreditation can also be of individuals – to recognise particular areas of expertise.

We will explain below what is meant by the main accreditations that we hold.

Accreditation

Lexcel is the Law Society’s legal practice quality mark for practice management and client care.

We gained Lexcel accreditation in 2018. The accreditation is assessed annually. Before gaining Lexcel we held an alternative firm accreditation – this was the Specialist Quality Mark (SQM) – which was is the practice management standard run by the legal aid agency and which is primarily focused on the provision of legally aided services.

Lexcel is a broader practice Quality Mark. It focuses upon seven different areas:

  1. structure and strategy,
  2. financial management,
  3. information management,
  4. people management,
  5. risk management,
  6. client care, file and
  7. case management.

Lexcel sets the required standard in each of these areas and we then have flexibility to implement procedures in order to meet the required standard.

As the practice has evolved we have evolved how we work. For example in 2020 we recruited Paul Jacobs FCCA – a management accountant – from corporate firm Foot Anstey as our finance manager. We had taken the view that the we had grown sufficiently that this level of internal financial management expertise was necessary to oversee and improve our systems.

In 2019 we introduced our client service guarantee.

Along the way we have introduced various changes – but our philosophy is that there is no system that is perfect and that everything can be improved.

When reviewing ways of working it is also important to listen to everyone. No one person has all the best ideas.

If things do go wrong it is important that clients let us know so that we can do something to resolve whatever the problem is but also so that we learn lessons so that we can improve systems.

Lexcel is an important accreditation for us and is a good demonstration that we are a sound business.

This accreditation is run by the Law Society. It is now called Children Law Accreditation – but historically it was known as the children panel.

The Children Law Accreditation provides a recognised quality standard for practitioners representing children in children law proceedings.

Children panel membership is a means of identification for professionals such as guardians to identify suitably qualified practitioners when representation of a child is required.

The accreditation is designed for children law practitioners who are able to demonstrate awareness, knowledge and expertise in children law proceedings and the representation of children in such proceedings. Accredited children panel members also agree to follow The Law Society code of practice for Children Law.

Representing vulnerable children in complex proceedings is a serious task and membership of the Children Panel is prestigious.

Our children law team includes children panel members: Ian Walker (since 1996), Kim Stradling (since 1999) Sandy Powell (children panel member since 1992).

In addition, David Howell Richardson and Nicole Phare are both former children panel members.

This means we have very considerable children law expertise within our team.

The Law Society family mediation accreditation scheme was first established in 2000.

Accreditation demonstrates experience and expertise in mediation. Only and accredited mediator is able to conduct legally aided mediation and undertake mediation information and assessment meetings (MIAM).

This is a parallel accreditation to the Family Mediation Council accreditation scheme.

Ian Walker holds the Law Society Family Mediation Accreditation.

The specialist accreditation scheme run by Resolution recognises members who have specific expertise in specific areas family law.

Ian Walker, Kim Stradling, Sandy Powell and Fiona Griffin are all Resolution Accredited Specialists.

There is more about Collaborative Family Law on our Collaborative Family Law pages.

In order to practice Collaborative Family Law, it is necessary to undertake a three-day core training course how with a follow-up day on collaborative negotiation skills.

Strictly speaking, training is a collaborative family lawyer is not an accreditation. Accreditation Schemes are normally subject to periodic review. With Lexcel it is every year, but with most accreditation it is every three years.

In the case of Collaborative Family Law, it is necessary to have successfully trained as a collaborative family lawyer in order to practice this particular type of family dispute resolution. Collaborative family lawyers are also expected to have regular meetings with their peers and undertake specific relevant training each year.

Lauren Preedy, Fiona Griffin, Ian Walker and Bridget Garrood are all active Collaborative Family Lawyers. Kim Stradling and David Howell Richardson have both trained in Collaborative Family Law but no longer practice as a collaborative family lawyers.

There is more about arbitration on our arbitration pages.

Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution. The arbitrator is essentially a private judge.

The parties agree to be bound by the reasoned written decision of the arbitrator.

IFLA is the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators which is the result of a collaboration between Resolution, the Family Law Bar Association (FLBA), The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) and the Centre for Child and Family Law Reform (CCFLR).

Training and qualifying as a family law arbitrator is available only to those who satisfy the conditions established by IFLA.

All IFLA arbitrators are experienced family lawyers who have successfully completed a training course on family arbitration run by CIArb.

It is a condition of practice that the arbitrator must remain a member of CIArb. The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators is the self-regulatory professional body for arbitrators. CIArb lays down ethical codes for its members and deals with complaints of misconduct through its Professional Conduct Committee.

This is more of a qualification than an accreditation.

Ian Walker is a member IFLA Child Law Arbitration Scheme

The family mediation Council accreditation (FMCA) scheme is an accreditation scheme run by the family mediation Council.

Gaining this accreditation means that a mediator is fully qualified. The accreditation is renewed every three years.

Holding this accreditation means that the mediator can sign MIAM forms after a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting.

This is a different scheme to the Law Society Family Mediation Accreditation Scheme.

There is an ongoing tension in the world and mediation between those who view mediation as a professional skill (this tends to be the view of most lawyers – who may also be practising other styles of negotiation such as collaborative family law or who would be negotiating generally during the normal course of their work) against those who view mediation as a profession in itself. (This tends to be those from a non-legal background).

The Family Mediation Council is made up of the different mediation member organisations which include The Law Society and Resolution as well as National Family Mediation and the Family Mediators Association. Both the Law Society family mediation accreditation scheme and the family mediation accreditation scheme must meet the professional standards set out in the Family Mediation Councils Standards Framework.

The world mediation can be a bit political at times – but to be on the safe side Ian Walker is a member of both the FMC Accreditation Scheme and the Law Society Accreditation Scheme.

These schemes are important.

What is also important is that knowledge and experience within any practice is not held by one or two people but is shared within the team.

We are fortunate that by having a large and experienced team we have a wealth of expertise that we are able to share with each other so that the sum of the expertise that we have within the team is greater than its individual parts.