Lack of new Legal Practitioners Law lamented
Twenty-five law firms, representing the vast majority of attorneys practising in the Cayman Islands, have voluntarily adopted a code of conduct because a proposed Legal Practitioners Bill has not been passed.
“For several years the profession has pushed for a code of conduct to govern the conduct of attorneys-at-law,” Cayman Islands Law Society President Charles Jennings said at the opening of Grand Court on Wednesday in Grand Cayman. Despite overwhelming support of the profession as a whole and both the Law Society and the Caymanian Bar Association, the bill remained unpassed.
“Indeed, both professional associations are unsure where it stands,” Mr. Jennings said.
He said the profession has adopted the code of conduct because it appeared the legislation would not be passed in the near future. The code is substantially what the law society had submitted to government seven years ago, he said.
Cayman has had a Legal Practitioners Law since 1969, but it does not include a code of conduct. When the matter was raised at the Grand Court opening in 2003, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie told Mr. Jennings and attorney Bryan Hunter that he was pleased to note their proposal for a new code of conduct for the profession.
“The proposal, I think, will contain modern and reasonable measures for self-regulation by the profession while allowing for the more serious disciplinary matters to be brought before the Chief Justice,” he said then. “It should result in an improvement over the now outdated regime set out in Section 7 of the Legal Practitioner’s Law, which requires that all matters of discipline, however mundane or amenable to resolution, are brought to the judge.”
Section 7 remains in the 2010 revision of the law. It gives the judge the power to suspend an attorney or have him struck from the Court Roll of individuals allowed to practise in Cayman.
In his speech last week, Caymanian Bar Association President Dale Crowley said problems have resulted from the absence of a code of conduct.
“In addition to contributing to Cayman’s loss of market share as an international financial centre and harming our reputation as a progressive jurisdiction, we have now witnessed first-hand the negative impact that the failure to pass the legislation has had on Caymanian lawyers in particular, who have now lost the ability to qualify into the United Kingdom based on their Cayman professional qualification because of the absence of a Code of Conduct governing the profession in these Islands, provision for which of course is contained in the draft but as yet un-passed legislation.”
Mr. Crowley added: “This prevents many young Caymanian lawyers from pursuing experience and opportunity in the United Kingdom, and also acts to severely curtail opportunities in other offshore jurisdictions where a UK qualification is required including the BVI, Bermuda, the Channel Islands and Hong Kong – all jurisdictions in which Cayman firms have a presence.”
Mr. Crowley said the bar association unanimously adopted the voluntary code of conduct for its members in November.
“The association now intends to apply to the Law Society of England and Wales for a reinstatement of the right of Caymanian lawyers to qualify into the United Kingdom,” Mr. Crowley said.
Mr. Jennings said the code “seeks to address the practice of law, not, as some seem to think, immigration issues, and I believe it has aroused a great deal of controversy for reasons that are beyond it remit.”
A copy of the code of conduct is available on the bar association website or from the law society.