A new Legal Services Bill aimed at modernising the regulatory system for legal professionals has been published.
The proposed legislation, which repeals and replaces the Legal Practitioners Bill, seeks to provide a mechanism to deal with professional misconduct, regulate the practice of Cayman Islands law and provide for a system of legal education.
A government press release on the bill stated, “The number of attorneys and the nature of law practice in the Cayman Islands have changed significantly over the decades to the point of rendering the current Legal Practitioners Law almost obsolete, hence the need for a new Law.”
David Collins, president of the Cayman Islands Legal Practitioners Association, welcomed the publication of the new law, but said the organisation had yet to consult with its membership on the legislation.
“Government clearly recognises the need for change to what is now a 50-year-old regime to regulate the legal profession,” he said. “The CILPA council supports that need for change. We appreciate that there have been numerous failed attempts to update the regulatory regime in the past, but in our view this bill contains many important elements that are needed to modernise the regulatory regime, such as the code of conduct.”
Prior to this bill, the former Progressives-led administration under Premier Alden McLaughlin introduced a Legal Practitioners Bill in 2017 to update the 2015 revised version of the law.
However, that attempt was met with widespread opposition, and McLaughlin later withdrew the legislation.
Collins said the Legal Services Bill is critical to the Cayman Islands.
“It is essential to protect local residents who engage attorneys, and [is] an important component of our financial services industry. We will be consulting with our members and other stakeholders over the course of the next few weeks on the bill,” he said.
The law proposes the creation of a Cayman Islands Legal Services Board consisting of the chief justice, the attorney general, a non-practising attorney-at-law appointed by the premier; and a non-practising attorney-at-law appointed by the leader of the opposition.
The function of the board will be to regulate the practice of law locally, to encourage and promote the upholding of the rule of law, to promote high standards of professional conduct by attorneys, and to encourage and promote the study of law.
The board will also supervise legal education and practical legal training leading to local qualification for admission as an attorney, and establish or supervise a system of law reporting.
The legislation sets out provisions that prohibit a person from practising Cayman Islands law in the islands or in another jurisdiction unless they hold a practising certificate. Breaching this provision can lead to a fine of $100,000 or to imprisonment for two years, or both.
It also outlines requirements for those who have foreign qualifications and are seeking to be admitted as an attorney in Cayman or to practise Cayman Islands law.
The law also establishes a code of conduct for the legal fraternity and empowers the board to investigate complaints and issue disciplinary sanctions against attorneys.
The law gives the board the power to make an interim order to suspend an attorney from practice until an investigation has been completed and any subsequent order made by the board has come into effect.
It also requires a law firm to have an annual operational licence to practise Cayman Islands law.
Under the proposed legislation, Cabinet, in consultation with the board, can make regulations requiring law firms to secure insurance against losses arising from claims of civil liabilities incurred by practising Cayman Islands law and by any legal business associated with the practice of Cayman Islands law.
The bill has been gazetted, along with an executive summary, and is now open for public consultation. Comments on the bill can be submitted to Tesia Scott at [email protected] in the Government Administration Building, Portfolio of Legal Affairs. The deadline for receipt of submissions is 24 Nov.