(CNS Business): The Cayman Islands Law Society said it was disappointed that the Legal Practitioners Bill failed to make it through the Legislative Assembly yesterday and warned that remaining with the status quo would continue to have a negative impact on current and future generations of local lawyers. “The bill would have been an important positive step forward for the Cayman Islands’ legal profession including Caymanians within the profession, the financial services industry as a whole, and the wider community,” the society said in a statement Tuesday.
The controversies regarding the bill continued on Friday and Monday, making it clear that the opposition’s earlier commitment to support the legislation with some changes was about to fall apart.
On Friday Arden McLean (East End) read a legal opinion from a British QC alleging a conspiracy by law firms, and Winston Connolly announced Monday that he had written to the governor calling for an inquiry into the alleged breaches of the immigration and the existing Legal Practitioners Law as well as what he believes is the deliberate discrimination in the profession.
With the support appearing to be lost, the premier announced Monday that government would not attempt to steer the law through the committee stage given the number of changes and the time constraints in the face of continuing objections. He said it was too important a piece of legislation not to get cross-bench support and the changes had to be more carefully considered.
Faced with continued allegations that the major law firms are breaching laws and deliberately discriminating against Cayman attorneys, the Law Society repeated its denials, claiming that the government’s own lawyer disagrees with the accusations.
“The Society reiterates that it strongly objects to allegations that actions by local law firms in hiring attorneys overseas could amount to a breach of Cayman Islands laws and notes that Attorney General Samuel Bulgin has previously refuted such claims in the Legislative Assembly,” the organisation stated.
It said the passage of the bill would have “resulted in a significant modernisation of what is clearly an outdated and inadequate law”, and that the law would have ensured Cayman stayed “on par with the global legal profession” which will provide more opportunities for Caymanians to progress within the profession.
“Remaining with the status quo will continue to have a negative impact on current and future generations of Caymanian lawyers,” the society said, adding that the updated law is also needed in advance of the upcoming Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) assessment.
“The Society will continue to offer its support for the passage of a new Legal Practitioners Law and strongly encourages the next Administration to recognise the importance of passing a modernised law to govern the profession as early as possible in their term,” the lawyers added, as they thanked everyone who had worked on the legislation to date.