(CNS): As the row over the latest draft version of the Legal Practitioners Bill continues, the Cayman Islands Law Society have released a statement backing to the proposed law and said that over 80% of its 400 plus members are behind it. The profession has been in agreement for years that a new law is desperately needed, but what that law should look like and how local lawyers will be protected and assisted has been at the heart of the disputes, as well as the sticky problem of attorneys practicing Cayman law overseas.
Following the response from Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton to public criticisms from four sole practitioners who remain opposed to the latest attempt by a government to pass a modern law, CILS President Alasdair Robertson said the profession would be failing the next generation of lawyers if it did not act now to provide a better foundation to allow Cayman Islands law to continue to grow.
“The current law is simply inadequate and we have been working hard, alongside the CBA, to ensure this new draft is fair and balanced and that it protects Cayman’s position as a jurisdiction of choice in key financial markets such as Asia,” said Robertson, who works for Maples and Calder, one of the largest offshore firms on island. “The 2016 bill, which is supported by over 80% of our membership, is in our view the best attempt so far to ensure fairness and modernisation of our legal profession.”
The Cayman Islands Law Society and the Caymanian Bar Association have campaigned for a significant number of years for the modernisation of the law and the majority of the members of these professional bodies support the latest draft law.
Robertson said he believed it incorporates many of the concepts and proposals found in previous LPB drafts as prepared by a parliamentary drafts-person well versed in drafting Cayman Islands legislation and based on a position paper approved by Cabinet.
The society pointed to the modern reality of the legal profession and touted the importance to the local economy of the overseas practices. Robertson said that in 2012, the society commissioned the Grant Thornton Report, which demonstrated that over US$24m of revenue to the Cayman Islands Government was generated by the foreign offices of Cayman’s larger law firms.
“This large revenue demonstrates that the legal profession is a key driver for Cayman’s financial services industry, bringing employment not only to the law firms in the islands, but also many other related industries, including company management, independent directorships, IT, marketing and compliance,” Robertson said, as he refuted the claims by the objecting lawyers and others that the profession is pushing out Cayman lawyers.
“The larger, multi-jurisdictional law firms are the key reason as to why over 200 Caymanians are now working in the legal profession. These firms offer articles and employment to Caymanians once qualified, creating opportunities for Caymanians to be part of the legal profession without having to go overseas,” he said. “The largest 14 multi-national law firms in the Cayman Islands employ 134 of the 200 Caymanian attorneys, not to mention that over 45 of these lawyers have had the opportunity to be seconded to the overseas offices. The operation of overseas offices increase job opportunities in the legal profession here, rather than taking away work from Cayman,” the offshore legal expert added.
He warned that a law which was too protectionist would reduce the opportunities and scholarships for Caymanians in and outside the profession. Robertson said the society “strongly disagrees” with the points being raised by those opposed to the proposed law and that CILS does agree that the current LPB is in urgent need of updating.