Any changes to Cayman’s Legal Practitioners Bill must address the hiring, retention and promotion of Caymanian lawyers, George Town backbench MLA Winston Connolly said Friday.
In a statement sent to the Cayman Compass, Mr. Connolly noted that the oft-debated legislation was expected to come to government shortly and that he would back the proposal only if those areas were set out in the legislation.
“I would like to see proper systems in place that allow Caymanians to take up meaningful roles at the top levels of firms operating in the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Connolly said. “Until I see [that], and until commitments are made by firms to do so, I do know that I cannot fully support any bill without these basic commitments and a plan to achieve full Caymanian participation in law firms.”
Mr. Connolly sent what he termed a “statement of goals” to all the major Cayman Islands legal associations Friday, including the Cayman Islands Law Society, Caymanian Bar Association, major law firms and the government Legal Department.
The “goals” advocated by Mr. Connolly include “removing barriers” to the participation of Caymanian attorneys at local law firms, improving the rate of retention for those attorneys and improving the rate at which Caymanians are promoted to partner and equity partner status at those firms.
An equity partner is a law firm partner who shares in the profits of the company.
Mr. Connolly also asked that law firms “adhere to the letter and intent” of the Immigration Law and that they conduct audits of hiring and promotions at set intervals.
“I call on both law societies to develop best practices for all Cayman Islands law firms for the hiring, retention and promotion of Caymanians within 90 days,” he said.
Premier Alden McLaughlin has previously identified the Legal Practitioners Bill as a priority for his administration, with an eye toward modernizing the rules the legal profession operates under locally and improving Caymanian lawyers’ access to the locally operating firms.
The previous draft of the bill, introduced in 2012 by the former United Democratic Party government, sought sweeping changes to the current legislation but essentially ran out of time during the former administration’s term.
The regulations under the previous bill sought to implement a registration fee for law firms that use non-Caymanian attorneys who perform some work for their Cayman Islands firms while residing overseas.
Former Premier and now-Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush defined the issue this way: “Some Caymanian attorneys have … expressed concerns about the ability of some law firms to operate satellite offices abroad. [They] are worried that one day, Cayman legal services could potentially be solely provided from other countries.”
Most international law firms have teams practicing Cayman law from overseas offices, for example, by providing for the use of Cayman vehicles such as funds or companies by foreign clients. Often this work will generate business that is going to be serviced from Cayman, in addition to the establishment work that is done in Cayman. For example, Cayman Islands companies are popular vehicles for listings on the stock exchanges in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
At the time the bill was being debated, Cayman Islands Law Society President Alasdair Robertson referred to the practice of operating satellite or outpost offices in other countries as “insourcing,” a practice that could lead to job creation in the Cayman Islands.
“If we don’t have those offices, then other jurisdictions, in particular we think the British Virgin Islands, would be in a position to sell that jurisdiction much better than ours, to our detriment,” Mr. Robertson said during an interview in 2012.