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Failure over lawyer’s bill “a mystery”

| 15/01/2015 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

Caymanian Bar Association President Abraham Thoppil at the Grand Court Opening, January 2015 (Photo by Jaida Alexander)

(CNS): After ten years of lobbying for and trying to secure a modern Legal Practitioners Law to cover the profession, Caymanian Bar Association (CBA) President Abraham Thoppil said it was an “inexplicable mystery” why the repeated calls had failed to get the much need law. The proposed legislation has been a topic of endless debate in the profession and of wider public concern; numerous people have invested hundreds of voluntary hours on it and several drafts have been published, but a decade on there is still no law.

Although the attorney general made no mention of the law in his address at the Grand Court Opening on Wednesday, the CBA president and the Cayman Law Society president both raised their concerns about the lack of this critical legislation.

The CBA now has some 200 members, and Thoppil highlighted the numerous problems that Caymanians in the profession now face due to the failure of successive governments, despite their efforts, to get a bill before the Legislative Assembly. With no bill there is no formal code of conduct, as there is in other sophisticated financial centres, to regulate attorneys in the Cayman Islands.

“Outside of immediate concerns that may spring to mind, one tangible result is that without a code of conduct Caymanian attorneys are unable to seek admission in England and Wales. Despite wider support for the voluntary code of conduct adopted by the CBA and most members of the Law Society, the voluntary code has yet to be placed on statutory footing,” he said.

The requirements of Cayman Islands practicing certificates remain tied to residency, so there remains no regulation of attorneys practicing Cayman law outside of the islands, Thoppil explained. Although foreign offices direct work into Cayman that might not be otherwise available, the lack of regulation means that it is open to abuse.

“The CBA remains extremely concerned about attorneys practicing Cayman Islands law outside of these Islands, who may or may not have previously worked in the Cayman Islands” he said, adding that these attorneys are therefore able to operate outside of the effective control of the local courts. With lawyers setting up offices here and practicing the laws of foreign jurisdictions, Thoppil said, save for the regulations that may be imposed by their home jurisdictions, these lawyers are not subject to further regulation or control here in Cayman.

He pointed out that there is no regulation of in-house counsel in Cayman, a growing and important segment of the legal profession.  He said these individuals are being employed to provide Cayman Islands legal advice to their employers without regulatory oversight and the jobs did not appear to be accessible to Caymanian attorneys.

Turning to other issues impacting local attorneys as result of the lack of legislation and the marginalization of Caymanians in the profession, Thoppil recognised efforts by some firms offering articled clerkship positions to locals but said they were in the minority.

“The CBA remains of the view that the training of new generations of attorneys remains an important matter of legal and professional obligation, not directly attributable to the size of the firm concerned. Every work permit issued in these Islands carries with it an obligation to train, with law firms being of no exception.”

As the number of law firms operating in Cayman increases each year, the CBA president said the organisation has yet to see an increase in the number of articled positions being offered.

“Absent benefits of a more diversified legal market, the apparent lack of oversight in the introduction of new players may simply result in the dilution of the legal market in Cayman Islands further, to the detriment of its established firms,” he warned.

But he said the most troubling and polarizing issue that the CBA faced is that of inadequate Caymanian participation in the highest positions within the firms. “Despite various efforts toRead all the speeches from the Grand Court Opening introduce provision in the Legal Practitioner’s Bill designed to increase Caymanian ownership, management and participation in our law firms, the real and demonstrable inequality remains,” Thoppil added.

Meanwhile the Law Society president, Alasdair Robertson, said it remained a mystery to his 425 members why Cayman has failed to modernise the legal regulatory regime.

“In light of the way that the modern legal profession has developed globally, this failing remains in my mind as the single biggest threat to our continued existence as one of the leading offshore jurisdictions and to the opportunities it brings to Caymanians in and outside the profession. If I am allowed one wish for the year it would be that we could bring forward a modern and balanced law,” he said as he referred to and supported Thoppil’s points.

Read all the speeches from the Grand Court Opening

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Category: Finance, Financial Services, Law

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