What is FOCIS?

The Forum of Complex Injury Solicitors (FOCIS) has been the name since 2007 of an organisation that was founded ten years earlier following publicity given in the Law Society Gazette in February 1997 to the American Inner Circle of Advocates. This in turn was a body which was formed in 1972 by Arizona and San Francisco Attorney Richard Grand who decided that there was a need for an organisation made up of the most skilled and experienced plaintiff attorneys to share information about their work.

Richard Grand describes his motivation as 'My goal was an organization of highly experienced plaintiffs attorneys who were willing to share information about experts, techniques and whatever it took to be a great trial lawyer'. 

Following a dialogue between Richard Grand and English solicitor John Cahill, now the managing partner of Stewarts Law Solicitors in London, the Richard Grand Society was formed in the UK with aims and objectives rather similar to the Inner Circle of Advocates.

The objectives of FOCIS (reflecting the original aims of the Richard Grand Society) are to:-

  1. Promote high standards of representation of claimant personal injury and medical negligence clients,

  2. Share knowledge and information among members of the Forum,

  3. Further better understanding in the wider community of issues which arise for those who suffer serious injury,

  4. Use members' expertise to promote improvements to the legal process and to inform debate,

  5. Develop fellowship among members.

Many of the aims and objectives of FOCIS are rather similar to the objectives of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) which aims to promote full and just compensation for all types of personal injury, promote and develop expertise, wider redress, campaign for improvements, promote safety and provide a communication network. FOCIS maintains close links with APIL. The main difference between the two organisations is that the membership of APIL is intended to be very wide and indeed now includes over 4,100 practitioner members. Membership of FOCIS is intended to be at the most senior level of the profession and is limited to a maximum membership of 50. 

It is therefore no coincidence that three of the past Presidents of APIL are members of FOCIS. The original membership of the group echoed the membership criteria of the Inner Circle of Advocates and when the society was formed in 1997 it was a requirement that members should have recovered at least £5million in a minimum of five personal injury or clinical negligence cases to qualify them to join the organisation. That requirement was dropped only a year or so later and since then and indeed even now the only formal requirement for membership of FOCIS is that members should have achieved a pre-eminence in their personal injury field. A crucial but implicit requirement however is that members should be willing and able to share sometimes potentially confidential and sensitive information among the membership to promote the objectives of the Forum.

The membership of FOCIS currently stands at 27 members including its President Richard Grand and its emeritus members. The Forum meets three times per year to discuss issues of topical interest. In between those meetings members are in regular contact by e-mail in discussions concerning thorny problems of practice, policy and business. Individual members of the Forum also contribute in their own right to numerous different panels and organisations and indeed those additional links and experiences contribute to the continuing success of FOCIS where those very disparate qualifications come together within a relatively small and manageable context to further the objectives of the Forum.

The Forum has never been aggressive in its pursuit of new members and new members generally join by invitation.  However new members suitably qualified are always very welcome and their election simply requires the support of 75% of the membership voting at the meeting where membership is considered. Generally there will be only one FOCIS member per firm and all members (with the exception of the President) are solicitors.

In recent meetings the Forum has identified the need for representation from Northern Ireland and further expertise in industrial disease work.

Adrian Desmond

Partner Boyes Turner solicitors


29 May 2009

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