Attorneys’ roles examined

The roles of attorneys in Cayman and the objectives of their professional associations were examined last week at the ceremonial opening of Grand Court for 2006.

Anthony Smellie, left

Chief Justice Anthony Smellie reviews the Grand Police. Photo: Carol Winker

The number of Caymanians choosing a career in law and the contribution of attorneys to Cayman’s reputation as an offshore financial centre were among topics raised.

Attorney Wayne Panton, president of the Caymanian Bar Association, said the CBA wanted to see improved opportunities for training and development for young Caymanians in the profession.

‘There are firms which do a very good job of this currently,’ he acknowledged, ‘but even for those there is always room for improvement. There are other firms who could be doing a lot more.’

Mr. Panton said this kind of investment must be made for the interest of the firms and the future of the country.

‘It will be a long time before there are sufficient numbers of Caymanians in the legal profession to replace the need for expatriate lawyers, and as long as all firms are putting forth their best efforts and making the necessary investments and showing confidence by providing opportunities, then that is all they can be asked to do.

‘In that case it is important not to hinder the development of firms, as they are a catalyst for increased growth in the financial industry. That growth will in turn result in greater opportunities for Caymanians. The rest is up to the individuals to reflect realistic expectations and full effort to prove themselves. There are many young Caymanians out there who are more than up to the task,’ Mr. Panton declared.

The position of the Cayman Islands Law Society was set out by Charles Quin QC, on behalf of the society president, Attorney Charles Jennings, who was off island.

He pointed out that, while the legal fraternities do look out for the interests of the profession, they have another role — to review and help the introduction of new legislation, both domestic and offshore.

‘As regards offshore financial matters, the legal profession contains a higher proportion of specialists in areas such as structured finance, investment funds, insurance, banking, trusts and corporate commercial matters than probably any other jurisdiction in the world, onshore or offshore,’ Mr. Quin said.

‘The offshore financial industry is never static; new products are constantly evolving onshore and then offshore advice sought as to their viability, enforceability and effect. Because Cayman has such an extraordinarily high reputation as the pre-eminent offshore financial jurisdiction, lawyers here are therefore exposed to the most sophisticated offshore structures imaginable, and many of them tread the frontiers of innovation on a daily basis.’

For these reasons, he concluded, attorneys in Cayman are uniquely qualified to prepare and introduce or review legislation that allows the Cayman Islands to maintain its pre-eminence. ‘Their expertise should never be ignored, but rather should be harnessed by Government for everyone’s good,’ he urged.

‘Well-timed, well-considered legislation, drafted by those who work daily within the market, produce incalculable benefits for the Cayman Islands. It is no exaggeration to say, for example that as a result of the introduction of the Exempted Limited Partnership Law, the Cayman Islands are now the foremost jurisdiction, onshore or offshore, for the establishment of private equity funds,’ Mr. Quin reported.

He urged both the legal profession and the Government to strive to understand one another better, to work out their differences and not take positions that are difficult to back down from. ‘Only in that way will mutual trust develop – a mutual trust which allows, indeed causes, the ongoing cooperation that we all need to keep the Cayman Islands in the position of the foremost offshore jurisdiction in the 21st century,’ Mr. Quin said.

Few criminal attorneys

Chief Justice Anthony Smellie agreed that the continuing expansion of the legal profession was a welcome sign of the growth of the offshore services industry, since applications to practise in Cayman almost invariably involve work in the capital markets sector.

The same forces of demand and supply would suggest a growing demand for locally trained attorneys in that sector. Unfortunately, this situation is not reflected in the number of locally trained attorneys being employed in the sector, the Chief Justice continued.

As chairman of the Legal Advisory Council, which oversees ‘the excellent training programme being delivered by our Law School,’ along with other aspects of the profession, the Chief Justice expressed belief that earnest and objective consideration needed to be given to the reasons for this tendency.

‘Also, from the point of view of the judiciary as a whole, we believe that thought needs to be given to the reason why so few of the large numbers being admitted to practice are coming to practice at the Criminal Bar,’ the Chief Justice stated.