Who are SFE?
SFE was set up to be a specialist group of lawyers who support and make a difference to older and vulnerable people.
SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly) was set up in 1996 and set out to be a specialist group of lawyers to support and make a difference to older and vulnerable people. (By vulnerable we mean people who may not be able bodied and/or who may be mentality incapacitated i.e. they need help to make decisions or they can’t make decisions for themselves.)
SFE is now a national organisation with over 1500 members across the United Kingdom and a separate group in Southern Ireland, who are all fully committed to our ethos.
Only a very select group of people can become members of SFE. They must be fully qualified, regulated and insured Solicitors, Barristers or Chartered Legal Executives and they must spend at least 50% of their time working with older and vulnerable clients. Before they can join SFE, they must complete our externally accredited qualification – the SFE Older Client Care in Practice Award (OCCP). The qualification is all about non-legal skills or “soft skills” – like a doctor’s bedside manner.
The qualification focuses on understanding the key illnesses and frailties of old age and vulnerability – hearing, sight, capacity, mobility, dementia, so that SFE members are able to provide the best support to their clients, to help them to make their wishes understood and are able to act in their best interests. They also learn the skills to help them check that their clients are not being pressured, coerced or abused. Members are also encouraged to consider the environment in which they see their clients – office/home/hospital/care home as well as the time of day, to best suit them to ensure they give their clients the best possible chance to communicate and make their wishes understood.
Once our members have had at least 3 years’ experience in the field, they are then eligible to take our second qualification the SFE Older Client Law in Practice Award (OCLP). This qualification focuses on legal knowledge and technical expertise in our specialist areas.
All our members have to sign up to our Code of Practice which clearly states what we expect of them in all their dealings with their clients (click here to view).
They are also required to have a specific older client care procedure document which details what clients can expect of them and their dealings with the member’s firm. Whilst these documents are particular to each firm, a sample one can be found here.
In summary, SFE is a community of trusted advisers – professionally highly qualified and regulated and who also have additional skills to enable them to work with older and vulnerable clients.
SFE is membership organisation run by its members for its members. It comprises a board of directors, a CEO and an administrator. In addition, it has an advisory board and an expert panel.
The SFE Board of Directors
The SFE board is comprised of members of SFE. The board meets four times a year and is responsible for setting policy and strategy for SFE. All board members must be full accredited members of SFE.
Board members are authorised to make statements on behalf of SFE.
The board has a duty to ensure the smooth, professional running of SFE.
The Advisory Board
The advisory board is comprised of a number of SFE’s Regional Co-ordinators, who are themselves all members of SFE.
The Advisory Board is there to help the board with the running of SFE and to input into strategy. The Advisory Board is also there to represent SFE members.
The Expert Panel
The expert panel is made up of experts in the field of Older Client Law and associated areas, who input into the SFE training curriculum and best practice guidelines. The expert panel also helps with the quality assurance process for SFE’s accredited standards and assessments.
Meet the team
SFE Chairman of the Board
SFE Director and Treasurer
SFE was the brain child of a small group of solicitors who had attended a conference on the ‘Elderly Client’ in the mid 1990’s.
They realised there was a need for a specialist group of lawyers who could advise older clients, in particular on the issues surrounding capacity, delegated decision making and long term care.
For many firms it was an adjunct to probate, wills and tax planning but for some they were developing the area as a specialism within their Private Client Department.
The name for the group was agreed upon as it was accepted that most older people would seek advice through a solicitor’s practice, although our members comprise of solicitors, legal executives, barristers and others who work within a legal practice.
Finally in 1999, SFE was officially launched at the first National Conference in London. Over 100 people attended from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to hear speakers talk on some of the current issues affecting older clients.
From that small group, SFE now has in excess of 1500 members. Members receive monthly newsletters to keep them in touch with the issues that affect older clients; regional and national training provides focused cost effective educational development and members can also use a private members forum to post questions about issues they have, which can provide solutions for the not so common problems encountered in legal practice.
SFE aims to support members in the work they do and continues to be run by members for its members.
Solicitor and Master of the former Court of Protection and now the Senior Judge of the newly established Court of Protection.
He is the author of ‘Cretney & Lush on Enduring Powers of Attorney’, ‘Elderly Clients – A Precedent Manual’, Jordans Publishers, ‘Cohabitation: Law Practice and Precedents’ (2nd edition, 2001), and the General Editor of Heywood & Massey’s ‘Court of Protection Practice’ (Sweet and Maxwell).
Trevor Lyttleton MBE MA LLM (Cantab) practised for many years as a solicitor, advising elderly clients in London.
He was a Court of Protection specialist and panel member with particular expertise in handling dementia cases relating to the elderly.
He is the founder of the national charity Contact the Elderly, which provides a regular lifeline of support for thousands of lonely older people through a nationwide volunteer force of over 6,500 people. The charity celebrated its golden jubilee in 2015.
An initial meeting took place at The Law Society to discuss a way forward.
An initial steering group was set up, comprising of Danny Carter (formerly SFE Treasurer), Anne Edis (SFE President), Richard Smithies, Jan Wright and Michael Orr.
The core group, put in a total of £450 into a kitty to get the ball rolling.
This funded the initial activities of the group, which quickly grew.
Those involved during this period gave up lots of their own time and never claimed any expenses to enable the group to get off the ground.
It developed its aims and objectives, which essentially remain the same today.
By focusing on sharing information between professionals, training and establishing best practice, older people, their family and carers will get good legal advice.