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Are you a specialist?

16 December 13

The scope of work considered relevant to becoming an accredited specialist in agricultural law

by Allan Collie

Accreditation recognises the attainment of a level of expertise and experience in the chosen area, one of which is agricultural law.

In common with other specialisms, the agricultural law panel will assess any application on a number of factors which are set out in the application form, a major requirement being demonstrating “significant experience” in work carried out in this specialist area.

This perhaps begs the question, what is the scope of work considered relevant for purposes of the application?

Clearly the Agricultural Holdings legislation is a cornerstone of this specialism, evidenced by the content of the recognised textbooks on agricultural law. There is no doubting the importance of this legislation to the agricultural sector and to solicitors practising in this area. There is no doubting either its complexity, and the need for rather more than passing knowledge for anyone holding ambition to be acknowledged as a specialist.

While the Agricultural Holdings legislation is a significant part of the practice of agricultural law, there are however many other aspects and legislative enactments which have a direct bearing on this sector.

By way of example, one such is the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which has been with us in various guises over a considerable period, and has become topical again of late as those affected whether directly or, in the case of lawyers, as advisers, grapple with the implications of further reform.

There are also the alternative methods of land occupancy, such as contract farming arrangements, which raise their own issues, and a plethora of agricultural and agri-environment schemes, codes or regulations which impact on the agricultural industry. Not least among those is the extensive regulation imposed by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), which touches on all aspects of agriculture.

One must not of course forget the relevance of tax legislation, particularly the rules relating to inheritance tax, capital gains tax and the like.

In reality, practice in the area of agricultural law is broad, and what is relevant is an ability to demonstrate knowledge and application of relevant legislation and regulation to specific cases or situations, not only where there is a contentious element but also in the important sphere of family/business planning. In this regard a degree of detail is encouraged. A simple list of agriculturally related transactions or cases with no reference to or explanation of any technical or specialist element is unlikely to satisfy the panel.

Full information and guidance on becoming a specialist is available on the Law Society of Scotland website www.lawscot.org.uk.

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