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LPB: Nothing said, nothing gained

| 19/10/2016 | 12 Comments

CNS Business101 writes: “There is an urgent need for the profession to address law school scholarships, articles of clerkship, hiring opportunities, equitable distribution of billable work, marketing and networking opportunities, attendance and contribution to conferences, being mentored and training others, continuing legal education, work experience overseas, and preparation for and participation in leadership and ownership of offshore and local firms”.

That’s an excerpt from a 2013 report by then Chairman of the Law Reform Commission Mr Ian Paget-Brown on the Legal Practioners Bill.

The quote is interesting, not so much because it supports the views of some persons who are criticising the bill today, but more because it demonstrates how little the ‘anti’ side of the debate is heard now (and even back then, it appears).

A lot of us may disagree that the quote above is representative of today’s climate within the legal profession. But some us also disagree with the broader idea (though fueled heavily by politicians) that many Caymanians are unemployed because of some form of discrimination in the work place and that these other people (usually foreigners for a better description) have somehow done some injustice to our people.

Both the wider debate on the impediments to Caymanian success and the more recent one relating to Caymanian attorneys tend to rely on the ‘victimisation excuse’ to explain why we don’t hear enough of the ‘anti group’. Admittedly, in the case of the wider problem, the radio shows give that to us most mornings (even if from the same 37 persons), but shouldn’t we expect a more focused, organised and deliberately detailed approach from our Caymanian attorneys?

Thus far, what we have heard from those opposing the bill is that:

It’s not good for Caymanians because it will export jobs to other countries.

It should be structured like the accountants bill.

We need some more time to consider it

It will make it easier for firms to hire overseas.

It has no regulatory teeth/has insufficient enforcement mechanisms.

The government is being too secretive.

The Law Society, Caymanian Bar Association and Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton have in their own campaigns made arguments (some of them reasonable, others less so) to refute these claims.

We are then left to summarise as follows: Logically, the ‘pro side’ is winning the debate, but politically they are losing terribly as the marl road (“It’s going to wipe out Caymanian lawyers”) and electioneering (“Vote for me to save Caymanian lawyers”) ramps up.

The result is that while Panton and Premier Alden McLaughlin may feel that they have the numbers to pass the bill, certain members of the government know all too well that there is some political risk attached to their decision and they are weighing this risk very, very carefully.

The easy way out for such members is for the debate to be extended, as was recently called for, which offers an opportunity for the 15-plus year initiative to be delayed even further.

If the debate is extended, the bill’s opponents must absolutely find a way from under the victimisation covers and present their case. That case must be supported with some detailed arguments and evidence. You can understand why many of us ordinary people cannot speak out on certain issues without worrying too much about victimisation partly because, you know, we can’t really fight retaliation on legal grounds, etc.

But Caymanian attorneys who know how the legal system works could come together with the force and confidence of knowing they can challenge any attempts to marginalise them on legal grounds if they feel those actions are based on their stance on the bill. It’s a more risky form of activism and advocacy but this is exactly what is needed now in this discussion (which can hardly be described as a debate as it’s so lop-sided). People must be willing to put something on the line to articulate their concerns, or this will be just another one of those things.

That would be a shame, not because I particularly support the bill or don’t, but because it would mean that yet another important policy decision was subject to the small village mentality we have always succumbed to. And for a country viewed as progressive (no pun intended) as we appear to be from the outside, we can really do a lot better than that.

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Category: Business Viewpoint, Finance, Financial Services, Law

Comments (12)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The deadine for review of this is this week yet neither CILS, Mr. Panton or the CBA has stated how they intend to address our concerns raised

    • Anonymous says:

      Poster can you spell out your concerns please for us in bullet point form. All we hear is that a minority (4) wrote a letter (which is on CNS) and which letter refers to a 2013 draft. Can you post this 2013 draft or forward a link to this draft please…..

  2. Anonymous says:

    I worked for a firm that openly told us that if we didn’t support the bill we wouldn’t have jobs. That’s reality. That’s why so many employees are scared. What a sham cayman has come to this!

  3. Anonymous says:

    What Ian Paget Brown wrote in 2013 was correct then and moreso now. I worked with him in the 80s and can attest to the fact that he treated his employees well and has always stood up for Cayman. Some employers are still in such a lopsided way against some people that most of the attorneys are afraid to speak out for fear of losing whatever few crumbs that have been thrown their way and can hardly be blamed for keeping quiet. It is common knowledge how differently some local attorneys ( Caymanians) are treated than their expat counterparts except for the token few especially in the law firm. This law will do very little to promote the local Caymanians and every body with two grains of sense knows it. Hopefully Wayne knows it now or else we would not have pulled back on it. He can pull the wool over some people’s eyes but not everyone. He has folks in the opposition in the house who has the intelligence and the knowledge to take him to task and they did. The days of “yes Minister” are over. Bring it right or don’t bring it. The government has the votes to pass their ill- drafted bills but they wouldn’t dare do it.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is clear you have no idea how and why clients choose their lawyers. They do not usually want to be the guinea pig for your promotion of the mediocre. They simply go elsewhere.

      • Anonymous says:

        @5:23 pm – It is abundantly clear you have no idea how clients choose their lawyers either.

  4. Anonymous says:

    If your credentials looked any good, they would have beaten down your door.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Caymanians do not need to come from under the covers. The authorities responsible for regulating lawyers from immigration to the courts just need to enforce the laws of this country. It is not hard. The abuses are obvious from the firm websites, their immigration submissions, and the money trails of where the profits go and why.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Amen to @2:50pm. The writer is very correct on what’s taking place out there. You call or write and no response. But when you go on the website you see a non caymanian in the role you are enquring on but I know if I had the Ministers surname I’d get a call right away. It’s not all the firms but the 5 big firms on this island are calling the shots. Look to see who heads them then look to see who heads some of their HR dept then do the math. You cannot get in the door but yet immigration is renewing and granting permits for a legal secretary and paralegal when you have law graduates begging you for a role…very off balanced!

    I appreciate what 101 is saying about coming as a united front!

  7. Anonymous says:

    There is absolutely a need to address articles of clerkship. You wouldn’t believe the crap firms pulled on me. Two interviewed me without telling me they didn’t have spaces available. Of those, one made me wait eight months for an open spot and forced me to interview again, at the same time on the same day of the week with the same partner who told me to repeat everything I said last time because he’d forgotten, and the other told me they had someone else to train first who wasn’t even Caymanian at the time; he was waiting on his ‘papers’ while working as a paralegal. Another firm just rejected my application out of hand until I contacted a friendly, very senior partner and then got a proper response. There is zero transparency for available spaces or standards expected, zero accountability for failure to train properly, no incentive for senior associates or salaried partners who are hoping to move up to actually build capacity and develop the hard and soft skills of articled clerks (in fact, they are penalised for doing this because it’s considered a requirement of their job and therefore they get no PR points for training), and the big firms choose only from among their scholarship recipients and you haven’t got a chance in hell unless you’ve been working summers there for years. Those lucky few are the only ones making all the money even amongst the junior Caymanian lawyers. I will make my views known because I had a horrible experience in this world. Thankfully, I now work somewhere that appreciates what I have to offer, and I’m the most profitable fee earner at the firm.

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