Court challenge filed over Legal Practitioners Law

An English woman seeking an articled clerkship in the Cayman Islands has asked a court to review the Governor in Cabinet’s refusal of her application to take up that position, according to records filed with the Grand Court last month.

The issue centers on regulations in the Legal Practitioners Law that allow someone to be accepted for an articled clerk position in Cayman only if they are Caymanian or if they have received consent in writing from Cabinet to take up such a role.

An articled clerk is someone studying to be an accountant or lawyer. They are typically placed under the supervision of a more senior individual in the profession for a certain period before they become a full-fledged attorney or accountant.

In the judicial review application filed with the Grand Court on Dec. 23, Ella Mulroy of Herefordshire states that she made such an application to take such a position after receiving a letter from a local law firm indicating they would be willing to offer her employment as an articled clerk.

That application was refused, according to the judicial review filing, on Sept. 26.

Ms. Mulroy has asked the court to quash that decision on the basis that “no lawful or rational reason has been given” for it. She states she requested the decision in writing from the government “immediately” after she was informed of it.

“It is a long-settled principal of the rules of natural justice that proper, adequate reasons must be given,” the judicial review document states. “[Ms. Mulroy] had a legitimate expectation of being treated … similarly to other applicants in her similar position.”

Under the Legal Practitioners (Students) Regulations attached to the Legal Practitioners Law, it is generally possible for someone to receive an articled clerkship in the Cayman Islands if they are Caymanian and have reached age 18.

Ms. Mulroy’s application is made under section 16(2) of the regulations which permit the clerkship if the applicant “has attained the consent in writing of the Cabinet to his registration.”

The issue of articled clerkships, as well as the admission and hiring of non-Caymanian attorneys, has been one of the most contentious issues surrounding proposed changes to the Cayman Islands Legal Practitioners Law, which are due to come before the legislature again next month.

The previous draft of the lawyers’ bill proposed extending the number of years of experience foreign attorneys must have before coming to work in the islands from three years to four. However, a group of local attorneys who opposed the bill during its last iteration in October have argued to push that to five years.

Far more stringent rules were also proposed in the bill regarding hiring outside attorneys on work permits, including requirements for a separate business staffing plan for law firms and the ability of a majority Caymanian regulatory body – created under the bill – to regulate the industry and to discipline firms that fail to hire qualified local candidates.

The bill was withdrawn at the last minute by government, and Premier Alden McLaughlin has proposed to bring it back for passage in the final Legislative Assembly meeting of his administration’s current term in office.

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