Attorneys Alasdair Robertson and Stephen Watler between them made a comprehensive case for Cayman’s legislature to pass a new Legal Practitioners Law this year.
The men were speaking as presidents of the Cayman Islands Law Society and Caymanian Bar Association, respectively. They made their comments when they formally seconded the motion for the opening of Grand Court on Wednesday.
“The public is entitled to expect that we have modern, fair and proportionate regulation for all lawyers in private practice,” Mr. Robertson said.
Without reforming the law as it currently exists, Cayman’s financial services will continue to be hindered, he said, and that in turn will have a negative impact on local jobs and prosperity. Families and businesses who need assistance from lawyers will continue to be disadvantaged.
“Caymanian attorneys will continue to lack the opportunity to be admitted in England and Wales and other jurisdictions and thereby greatly expand their opportunities,” he pointed out.
The failings of the current law have long been recognized and successive governments have failed to remedy them, Mr. Robertson said. He referred to a letter written to Cayman’s Attorney General in January 1988. Even then, the Law Society considered that the Legal Practitioners Law was “inadequate as a framework given the nature of the current practice of law in the Cayman Islands,” he quoted, adding that the letter endorsed a “complete overhaul” of the law 30 years ago.
He did not go into detail, but Mr. Watler did, outlining the key requirements the bar association said should be contained in the law.
He said the law should contain provision for a self-regulating body, free from political or governmental interference.
Second, there should be a practical, efficient, transparent and cost-effective disciplinary process.
Third, the law should contain a modern and mandatory code of conduct.
As to training and development, he urged provisions for articles of clerkship, post-qualification training for associates and mandatory continuing professional development.
The law should have provisions for admission to the Bar of the Cayman Islands that are consistent with public policy, “in particular the promotion of the legal profession and advocacy in the islands, its sustainability, competence and advancement.”
The law should address the practice of Cayman Islands law outside the islands and limits on foreign offices.
Licensed law firms should be required to include at least one Caymanian equity partner “and for the majority of voting and economic interests in the firms to be held by Caymanians and attorneys ordinarily resident in the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Watler said. Other recommended provisions referred to business staffing plans and post-qualification experience. He said the content of the law should be limited to “admission, practicing certificates and discipline.”
Mr. Watler endorsed Mr. Robertson’s comment that the legislation “is long overdue and urgently needed for the future development and continued success of this profession.”
He said the bar association looked forward to working with government, the Law Society and other stakeholders on this important piece of legislation.