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Re-accreditation woes


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I’m reluctant to post on this as it causing so much anger in the sector at the moment and spilled blood seems quite possible right now. I’d rather it wasn’t mine.

In order to undertake publicly funded immigration work, a person must be accredited by the Law Society. To get accredited that person must pass stringent all-day written and interview examinations. Once accredited, that is it. I was one of the first 20 or so people to get accredited in 2005 in the pilot round and I am still accredited today, without having to do anything further.

Until now. After years of faffing around, the powers that be have suddenly sprung on everyone the need to get re-accredited. This was always going to happen, and the Law Society and Solicitors Regulation Authority have had years to sort it out, consult and so forth. Instead, they have out of the blue announced that all 1800 publicly funded immigration lawyers will be summoned in alphabetical batches to sit a 2.5 hour examination on unknown subjects and that if they fail they will no longer be able to practice from 31 July 2010. There seems to be no mention of re-sits.

Unsurprisingly, immigration lawyers are not terribly happy about this. Everyone is rightly concerned about the apparent one-strike-and-you-are-out nature of the process, which is plain ridiculous. Some are furious and very much on the war path. Others sound rather panicky. Accusations are starting to fly.

An organisation called Central Law Training is running the show and is alleged to have devised the exam schedule. They also provide training on how to pass the exams. I’m SURE there’s no conflict of interest there, nor any incentive for CLT to create panic in the sector. It’s merely like drugs companies discovering illnesses that require drug therapies. Got a problem? How unfortunate. We can help…

It makes me wonder that happened to the vaunted UKBA accreditation scheme for caseowners. I seem to remember assurances were given at stakeholder meetings that it would be in place by the first quarter of 2010, but nothing much seems to have happened.

There’s no sign of requiring immigration barristers to pass any examinations, I should say…

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The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.


7 Responses

  1. FM

    In my profession the body introduced CPD a few years back. I’m guessing that lawyers have a similar system.
    Fortunately it has not been too cumbersome, but one would have thought gaining the required number of CPD units every year would be a better method for accreditation, as it has done for us in maintaining continued membership.

    But then when has this Govt done anything that could be described as “best practice” or even “effective and efficient”. Certainly not in the area of immigration for sure.

    1. We do have CPD already – this scheme was on top of CPD requirements. There was quite a lot of reluctant support for it when introduced as it was felt that it would help get rid of useless (and worse than useless) immigration lawyers. I suspect there may have been a little bit of a desire to thin the field of competitor immigration lawyers and firms as well. The ridiculous time scale and lack of an obvious re-sit facility have completely alienated the entire sector, though, which in any event would always have been reluctant to be subjected to another faintly humiliating exam.

  2. Accreditation came in in 2005 and was organised by the Legal Aid Board or whatever it had become by that time. The objective was not to improve standards but thin the profession who are a bit of a nuisance to the govt. Practitioners spent time and money on doing the exams.

    After that the powers at be were not sure what to do since they had no interest in keeping on maintaining standards. Failures could anyway just move into the private sector – where there is no attempt to regulate practitioners. There are so few legal aid immigration lawyers – getting fewer as fixed fees come in – that most people end up paying good money to use crap lawyers anyway.

    So the parcel was passed to the Law Society and they do not seem to have much idea do they? And Labour supporters might like to reflect that this is all happening under a Labout govt. So much for Labour caring about the vulnerable or human rights!

  3. I would say a little bit more than a little desire… OISC advisers like myself are now having to compete with their own regulator – that’s UKBA oh yes siree.

    Nothing like becoming a corporate entity for the shark feeding frenzy to begin.

    Cutting out the crap advisers?

    Puhleeze, they’re the ones that will most likely rise to the top in all this murk.

  4. The letter I have received from the Law Society says that “the pass mark…..will be 50% and there will be a maximum of one opportunity to re-sit the assessment”.

  5. It’s mad – there is enough trouble for asylum seekers anyway finding a legal aid solicitor, without making all thsoe who have already been accredited do it all over again.