The Law Society’s criminal litigation accreditation scheme (CLAS) has no value to specialist solicitors and plans for reaccreditation at a time of huge pressure on the sector has “no support”, their representative body has warned.
The Criminal Law Solicitors Association also hit out at the £240 the society is proposing to charge for reaccreditation.
Any solicitor who entered the scheme before 31 December 2007 will be required to reaccredit by the end of this year.
In a letter to Law Society president John Wotton, the association’s chairman, Mike Jones, said criminal lawyers are already heavily regulated by the Legal Services Commission and the Solicitors Regulation Authority. He said CLAS has “no value” to clients, the commission – which has never made it a requirement – or professional colleagues.
“The existing contractual and CLAS requirements already oblige duty solicitors to undertake 10 hours of ‘crime specific’ CPD annually without any requirement to pay a fee to the Law Society,” he noted.
“You will gather that the idea of reaccreditation is very unpopular amongst the profession. They have suffered massive fee cuts as well as a reduction in work volumes through a reduced number of arrests and prosecutions as other government departments and agencies save money. Pressure on them is immense.
“It is unfortunate that they should see their own professional representative body setting further hurdles for them to jump and, perhaps equally significantly, attempting to raise money for the society’s purposes from them.”
In a consultation on reaccreditation issued last week, the society said: “We do not consider that a scheme that is meant to be an indicator of quality can be credible in the modern world if those who are accredited are not re-assessed regularly to ensure that they remain competent and up to date.
“We wish, however, to ensure that the means of achieving re-accreditation are proportionate and do not place unnecessary burdens on practitioners.”
Solicitors will have to fill in an application form and include details of six hours of relevant criminal litigation CPD, undertaken in the year prior to the date of the application for re-accreditation. The fee of £200 + VAT covers a further five years of accreditation. “It represents the costs of administering your membership for that time.”