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MLA presses lawyers to hire and train locals

| 15/09/2015 | 9 Comments
CNS Business

Winston Connolly, George Town MLA (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

(CNS Business): George Town C4C backbencher, Winston Connolly, is asking members of the legal profession to sign a document committing them to increasing the participation of locals in their profession and to double the number of Caymanians that reach equity partner by 2020. As the government works towards finalising its draft legal practitioners law, Connolly is trying to get law firms to improve the recruitment and retention of young local lawyers and give them a fair chance to progress.

Describing the Statement of Goals that he wants lawyers, especially partners controlling the larger firms, to sign as a call to action, Connolly said the aim of the campaign was to trigger a renewed commitment to promote greater diversity and the retention and promotion of Caymanian attorneys in the legal profession.

The statement, which was presented to the Cayman Islands Law Society and the Caymanian Bar Association, calls for the removal of barriers to full and equal participation of Caymanian attorneys in the work the firms do, improve local retention rates, promotions and partnerships, and to stick not just to the letter but also the intent of the immigration law and conduct audits to measure the achievement of these goals and transparency in hiring practices.

“All signatories will have to agree to engage in critical self-evaluation to identify and correct any attitudinal barriers or organizational bias impeding Caymanian attorneys’ progress within their firms and to correct the discrepancies between the number of Caymanians who remain in the profession, who rise to senior leadership positions within law firms, and who achieve full participation in the profession,” he said.

Connolly maintained that Caymanians encounter obstacles based on stereotypes.

“There is a need to enhance opportunities in the legal profession for Caymanians, and to recognise that legal representation and leadership should reflect the diversity of employees and clients in the country in which they operate,” Connolly said.

The backbench former lawyer has also called on the government he serves in to produce a report on Caymanians in the legal profession. Ahead of plans to release the much-anticipated legal practitioners legislation, Connolly is calling for this report to address standards, training, promotion and adherence to the relevant laws.

He said questions needed to be answered regarding barriers to enter the equity partnership participation by Caymanians and using statistical evidence to find out why Caymanian attorneys’ education seems to leave them stuck as salary partners or associates.

Connolly said he wants to know how many Caymanian partners there are in the major law firms and how many of these partners were Caymanians when they entered the legal profession, which he said is an important distinction because firms point to many Caymanians at the top of the profession who began their careers on work permits.

“It is time that we kept and published statistics like the law societies in first world countries at least on an annual basis,” the MLA stated. “I believe that the statistics will show the inequity in equity partnership.”

He said analysis is also required on how the graduates from the Truman Bodden Law School have progressed in their careers and the number of students completing professional practices courses in Cayman.

“My personal challenge to the legal profession is to double the number of Caymanian equity partners by 2020,” he said. “Extraordinary efforts are needed to solve this extraordinary issue and moral imperative, and politicians and law firms can no longer hide their heads in the sand and pretend that this is not an issue, both economically and socially, for Caymanians and the Cayman Islands.”

The MLA said it was important that Caymanians who aspire to be lawyers know what it takes to get there, including the study required, and understand the rigor and competition but to know that capable lawyers will be given fair and equal opportunities. Young attorneys must understand what is expected of them, he said, but they must have a clear career path with frequent reviews and checks with directions for how they will acquire the requisite skills and exposure in the firms where they work, including stints overseas, to overcome the gap in skills and knowledge which appears to be the hurdle to equity in the profession.

If local lawyers excel and do all that is required of them they should have the opportunity to rise to the highest positions, Connolly said.

The statement can be signed online here.

Statement of Goals – letter from Winston Connolly MLA to CILS and CBA 11th September 2015

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Category: Education & Training, Employment, Finance, Financial Services, Law, Local Business

Comments (9)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Winston should hire more locals for his trash hauling business

  2. Anonymous says:

    Becoming a partner is not about numbers and statistics. Its about loyalty, the contribution you make to the firm, and more than ever, your ability to attract and retain good clients. Being a partner does not come from having a law degree and practicing law alone – you have to bring much more than that before you can make partner, and the fact is for most of us all over the world, no matter how we try it will never happen.

    If any Caymanian wants to become a partner they would do well to read and heed this article: which is a lot more realistic about partnership prospects than this same old entitlement attitude. Never mind what nationality the lawyer is – what substance can they bring to the table?

    • Anonymous says:

      To be a partner in some firms here you have to participate in illegality. There, I said it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    You are going to trust the legal fraternity to give accurate statistics? Like what they say to immigration?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Getting to the top in the legal profession (a dog-eat-dog world in any country) is difficult regardless of nationality. You either have to suck up and be in the right circles, or excel so much in your career that it would be a travesty for a promotion to be overlooked.

    After working all my life in law firms I can tell you hardly anybody really gets those top slots on merit alone. That’s just how it has always been and I doubt it will ever change.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Good luck on that Connolly. All one really has to do to get these positions is look up the academic attainments, schools attended, job histories, honors, and areas of practice of the existing partners and do like they did. Realistically Cayman can’t expect to produce many of these, it is too small.

    • Woof Wooof says:

      I think we should reserve all comments until we hear the comments and observations from the Legal Societies, as well as data from Government as suggested by MLA Conolly. Only then can we form opinions that sound and offer real perspective on this issue. So CIG and the Legal Fraternity let’s hear you.

    • Anonymous says:

      Funny how Bermuda has created so many, including as equity owners of Cayman Law firms.

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