Bar Association pleads for lawyers law

| 15/01/2016 | 16 Comments
CNS Business

Caymanian Bar Association President Abraham Thoppil

(CNS Business): Yet another year has passed with no sign of a modernised law dealing with the legal profession and, as the current president of the Caymanian Bar Association, it was Abraham Thoppil’s turn this year to urge government to address the issue. In his speech at the opening of the Grand Court Wednesday, he called it “a rather unfortunate tradition of needing to address the need for a new legal practitioners bill”, and said it was hurting the jurisdiction.

For more than a decade the CBA has tried and failed to bring in legislation to improve the position of the profession. “There are difficult issues facing the profession now aggravated by that failure,” Thoppil warned.

“The failure to pass such legislation has been damaging to the jurisdiction and the interests of Caymanian lawyers. The CBA considers that the advancement of Caymanians in the profession has been inadequate. This unsatisfactory state of affairs has been compounded by the inadequacies of enforcement of our immigration regime.”

Thoppil said the CBA had been working with the Cayman Islands Law Society (CILS) on the myriad issues confronting the jurisdiction and the profession and there was “significant agreement” over a new draft bill.

“A number of the CBA’s concerns are addressed in a new draft of the Legal Practitioner’s Bill. It is fair to say that the Law Society has recognised and accepted the importance of enhancing the interests of Caymanian lawyers.”

“There has been much well intentioned but often misguided comments made about how best to promote the interest of Caymanian lawyers,” he said. “The CBA trusts that public debate on the Legal Practitioners Bill will be well informed, based on an understanding of those initiatives that will truly advance the interests of Caymanian lawyers.”

CNS Business

Alasdair Robertson, President, Cayman Law Society

CILS President Alasdair Robertson was absent from the ceremonial court opening but his contribution was delivered by Colin McKie QC, Consulting Editor of the Cayman Islands Law Reports. The address briefly acknowledged the problem and noted that the CILS was also committed to the “the introduction of a modern and balanced legal practitioners bill” that would introduce a sensible admission and discipline regime to enhance the opportunities of local lawyers.

The legislation has been bogged down in an argument over how to protect local legal professionals against concerns from some larger international firms that the proposals would restrict their freedom to control their own teams.

However, although this is a hot-button topic in the profession, there was no mention of it by the attorney general when he listed the legislation that he expected to see steered through the Legislative Assembly over the coming year.

Speech by CBA President Abraham Thoppil at the 2016 Grand Court Opening

Speech by CILS President Alasdair Robertson at the 2016 Grand Court Opening

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Comments (16)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The CILS President agrees with Mr. Thoppil. In his speech Mr. Roberson noted:

    “I have had an opportunity to read Mr. Thoppil’s speech in advance and confirm that I agree with all that he will say. “

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Mr Abraham. Change is coming.

    • Anonymous says:

      A change that benefits the mediocre the most.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes, but once they can get legally admitted following mini-articles their mediocrity will diminish.

        • Anonymous says:

          And their unrealistic sense of entitlement will increase.

          • Anonymous says:

            Maybe, but at least we get to send them back to Hong Kong or wherever they have been unlawfully practising once they get admitted.

            • Anonymous says:

              Nothing will change outside Cayman, rather a few more who are not really good enough for the offshore services work will be forced into employment on the leading firms. Wendy’s will lose some damn good burger flippers.

              • Anonymous says:

                You are thankfully wrong, but just suppose someone were to take offence and write to the Chief Justice asking whether it was lawful for hundreds of lawyers without practicing certificates to be practicing Cayman law or worse, report them all to overseas regulators? Would you be able to afford a Wendy’s burger?

                • Anonymous says:

                  The fixation with those working abroad is simply the jealous obsession of the locally mediocre who are not good enough to flourish on their basic abilities. If you can’t make it in Cayman as a Caymanian lawyer you can’t make it anywhere, despite what your mother told you.

                  • Anonymous says:

                    Really, and out of hundreds of Caymanian lawyers, how many have been offered any opportunity to go overseas, and how many have become partners? Does that mean that 99% of Caymanian lawyers are incapable, or is something more nefarious going on?

  3. Anonymous says:

    There is nothing “modern” about the CBA positions. It is a pathetic organisation that has a primary interest in feathering the nests of “true born” Caymanian lawyers and reducing the competitiveness of the jurisdiction by pushing passports over talent when it comes to the provision of legal services, recruitment and promotion within firms. The CILS is the only body that should be consulted in these processes.

    • Anonymous says:

      The CILS does not represent the legal fraternity. Only the major firms. It can hardly speak for lawyers and has certainly done little to promote the long term interests of the Cayman Islands given the actions of some of its leading members who have managed to cash out and export legal services to other countries often in breach of Cayman laws that they are sworn to uphold.They should be asked for their views,but asking the managing partners of the biggest firms (many of which are foreign owned and controlled) what is in the interests of the industry, whilst ignoring all other players would be a disaster.

    • Anonymous says:

      And there, Ladies and Gentlemen, is among most eloquent expression I have seen as to the sheer arrogance of some of those who we have welcomed to come in and participate with us in building and growing our economy. Sentiments like that which fail to even acknowledge that appropriately qualified local persons ought have some some role in preference to outsiders in an industry that was ably built by their forefathers working hand in hand with expatriates damages Expat/Caymanian relations and emphasizes the need for the CBA.

      The CBA has never suggested that the unqualified or unready are entitled to anything. It does however support the compliance with laws (fancy that, an organisation of lawyers expecting laws to be followed and upheld). It also supports the provision of suitable opportunity to local persons to enable them to fairly compete for jobs and career opportunity. These sought-after opportunities are the same routinely provided to young lawyers elsewhere, from London to Sydney, both jurisdictions which cannot simply “magic up a work permit” every time a firm needs a lawyer with particular skills.

      There is nothing competitively advantageous to this jurisdiction about the ranks of junior foreign lawyers conducting Cayman work in overseas offices without even being admitted to practice Cayman law, in particular where willing and extremely capable young Caymanian lawyers are routinely denied any opportunity for secondment to those same overseas offices by some firms operating on that basis.

      There is nothing competitively advantageous for Cayman when teams of corporate administrators are doing substantial work overseas that can and often should be done locally.

      There is nothing competitively advantageous in creating structures that mask the true ownership and control of Cayman law firms and export the work and profits to other jurisdictions, relegating the on the ground activity here to little more than a post box.

      The CILS is a positive body representing the interests of its members. Those members however are in effect law firms, not individual lawyers (who have no direct means of voting in CILS elections). Unfortunately, the interests of the Cayman Islands is not always at the forefront of the minds of all CILS member firms. The CBA, particularly in its current form, provides some needed and appropriate balance.

      Insulting hundreds of CBA members who are each educated professionals, as you have done, is not helpful. Since all CBA members are Caymanian (both “new” and “old” with no distinction) and are among the persons who have likely welcomed the above poster here, the insults are also frankly, inappropriate.

      Driving a wedge between Caymanians and Expatriates is certainly not going to provide an “competitive advantage” to our legal industry, nor have any positive effect on our home.

      • Anonymous says:

        And there you have it, lots of high-school quality rhetoric, but at the heart of the post is an admission that the CBA exists to distort fair competition in legal services to line the pockets of those that could not compete on a fair playing field. The costs of legal services are higher because of this organisation, to the detriment of the consumers of services. And the myth of struggling junior lawyers is not backed up by any evidence. There is no raft of suitable graduates denied articles, that is complete fiction.

        • Anonymous says:

          Speaking of fair competition, how does the CILS feel about the major international firms being able to open offices here? What does the Law Society of England and Wales have to say about qualified but less experienced Indian, Australian, Canadian and dare I say Caymanian lawyers being able to practice in the UK?

          As for the high school rhetoric comment, I will leave the expression of unwarranted personal insults to you.

        • Yawn!! says:

          There is argument to be made on both sides of this conversation. Sadly the CBA does not really represent Caymanians as is being suggested in the article and their speech. It’s quite a revolving door over there and if you’re not connected to a particular firm (go figure) you’re chopped liver.

          The CBA doesn’t help any junior lawyers. It’s a myth. A few student projects here and there is not help in anyway. A few seminars here and there is not help in anywhere. I’m not sure what help they are giving. The CBA has for years been a old boys club and still is to a large degree. The leadership is far from what’s ideal for Caymanians and has in the past being held by CILS past heads as well. So exactly has do either CBA or CILS have anyone’s best interest at heart in the profession when all that’s happening is they are recycling the positions?

          Neither is better!

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