Two women called to the Bar within a month of each other reached this stage of their careers by different paths, but both marked their inaugural Grand Court speech with a pledge to be a positive force in the community.
Ms Bethea Christian and Mrs. Marilyn Burrell Brandt are now appointed Crown Counsel with the Legal Department, having served as articled clerks there since February 2007.
Ms Christian’s application to be accepted as an attorney-at-law was moved by Attorney General Samuel Bulgin before Justice Charles Quin in August. Solicitor General Cheryll Richards was on hand to assist her with the formal donning of gown and wig.
A product of Cayman’s public education system, Ms Christian attended John A. Cumber Primary School in West Bay, Cayman Islands Middle School and High School, completing Sixth Form in 1990 with seven O-Level/GCEs and two A-Levels.
Soon after, Ms Christian was persuaded to join the local beauty pageant. She ended up winning and served as Miss Cayman Islands 1990-91. During her reign she worked with the Department of Tourism.
She then worked for a year as a teacher’s aide before going on the University of Tampa, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Spanish and minor in Economics. She was awarded her Diploma in Education (Spanish) by the University of the West Indies and taught at George Hicks High School before joining the Cayman Islands Law School.
Ms Christian explained that she had wanted to enter the legal profession originally, but was dissuaded because a much-admired relative had told her ‘All lawyers are liars’.
With her previous experiences to guide her, she concluded ‘You can make a difference wherever you go if you choose to try.’ She especially recalled the words of her grandfather, Mr. Andrew Powery, who told her ‘to keep a cool head and a warm heart and always let God be my Captain.’
Things were not always easy. At one point, she was working full-time, studying full-time and being a full-time single mother. She said she was able to persevere because of the support and encouragement of friends and family, especially her mother, Blonde.
Graduating with honours from law school she went on to do her Professional Practice Course before being accepted at the Legal Department.
Ms Christian thanked her sponsors, including the law firms of Hunter and Hunter, and Samson Murray Jackson, the Monetary Authority and Cayman Islands Government.
‘After many obstacles and challenges, I have accomplished my goal. I now endeavour to continue to do my best and to utilise my profession as an attorney-at-law to assist in making a difference in my community,’ Ms. Christian said.
APPLICANT TOO YOUNG
In contrast, Mrs. Brandt’s path was more direct. Immediately after graduating from John Gray High School in 2000, she applied to the Cayman Islands Law School.
She was informed she could not be accepted without first obtaining a degree because of her age. She was only 17 at the time.
She then decided to attend the Community College, now called University College of the Cayman Islands, where she obtained an Associate of Arts degree in Social Sciences in 2002.
After that, the timing was right for entry to law school and she obtained her degree with honours in 2005. Completing the Professional Practice Course qualifications in 2006, she went on to serve her articles as required by the Legal Practitioners Law.
The Solicitor General presented this background to Justice Quin on 3 September, saying she was pleased and privileged to move the application for Mrs. Brandt’s admission.
Invited to address the court, the new attorney thanked her parents and husband, Garfield, for their love and support. She expressed appreciation to Attorney Donald Spence for his assistance during her years in law school, to Ms Richards for her supervision and guidance in the Legal Department and to Crown Counsel who helped with her professional growth and development.
Mrs. Brandt said she had chosen a career that she believed will make a significant difference in the community and in people’s lives through facilitating the administration of justice.
‘I am aware that as an attorney at law you have to have a fierce determination to demonstrate the qualities of fairness, trustworthiness and courage. These core values will be fundamentally important because being an attorney, especially a Crown Counsel, is not only a job – it is a life. It shapes how you see the world and how the world sees you.
‘It is lawyers and judges who pushed for and created the laws which set equity and equality as a standard and goal. And it is those laws in turn which created the kind of change that allowed equity and equality to not merely survive on the fringe of our careers but also to find a place in the substance, process and structure which we live in today.
‘And it is lawyers that will have to continue on that path and create new paths. I hope to be one of those lawyers,’ Mrs. Brandt said.