In what was noted as not only an emotional, but also a significant, moment, five Cayman-based attorneys ascended to the honoured position of Queen’s Counsels on Friday in a special ceremony at Grand Court.
The attorneys, including former Premier and Red Bay MP Alden McLaughlin, Solicitor General Reshma Sharma, Mac Webster Imrie, a consultant with Maples and Calder; Rachael Reynolds, a global senior partner at Ogier; and Colette Ann Wilkins, a partner at Walkers, have now added the distinguished title of QC to the end of their names.
The occasion, one which Chief Justice Anthony Smellie indicated was a long time in coming, was celebrated by friends, families and colleagues of the five.
As he responded to each nomination, Smellie commended each of the attorneys for their legal acumen and professionalism.
Governor Martyn Roper, who attended the ceremony, lauded the attorneys for their commitment to the “noble service that this honour denotes” in a post on his official Facebook page.
“I wish all the new QCs continued success. Our judiciary has a strong international reputation and plays an important role in our jurisdiction’s success,” he added.
QCs welcome honour, pledge to uphold high standards
McLaughlin, who marked 33 years as an attorney, was nominated by Attorney General Samuel Bulgin.
In accepting his nomination, McLaughlin expressed gratitude for the distinction, as he said he believed it was “acknowledgement and recognition of my 33 years of service as an attorney at law, both at the private bar and in service to my country”.
As he recounted his journey to the courtroom, from clerk to counsel, McLaughlin said he learned that he had been elected in Nov. 2000, while a trial was still underway.
“My election again altered the course of my life, but I found out very quickly that my legal training and experience would be called upon over and over again. Over the course of the past 20 years the Attorney General and I have together fought many a battle and argued many a case for these Islands here and abroad,” he said, adding, “The record will reflect the results of our efforts over the years, from significant constitutional changes to defending our financial services industry to drafting and piloting important and complex legislation.”
He ended his acceptance speech reciting one of his favourite poems, “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
His nomination was followed by that of Reshma Sharma, which was presented by Tom Lowe, QC.
Lowe suggested that Sharma was destined for silk, as her name Reshma – when translated from Hindi – also means silk.
He pointed out that she had distinguished herself in her legal career and noted her ability as a litigator.
Sharma, in accepting her appointment, pledged to fulfill her duties as a QC with honour.
Shân Warnock-Smith QC, in presenting her nomination for attorney Reynolds’s appointment, lauded the “significant moment” for the local legal fraternity Friday afternoon.
She commended Reynolds for her legal astuteness and her tenacity which she said she had utilised over her career leading to her latest appointment as Global Senior Partner at Ogier.
“You do not become Global Managing Partner of a multi-jurisdictional law firm without the full support of your colleagues and the respect of those with whom the firm deals. It is a testament to her abilities that Mrs Reynolds has that support and respect,” she added.
In her remarks, Reynolds urged young Caymanians considering a career in law to “work hard and go for it no matter what your background.”
Wilkins, shared Reynolds’ sentiments as she too urged more young people to pursue a career in law.
She also spoke on the need for diversity, which she said should not only be limited to race and gender but should include a range of socio-economic backgrounds.
“We must encourage the young people that they can pursue this,” she said.
Attorney Colin McKie QC nominated Imrie who is currently overseas.
He accepted his nomination via Zoom and thanked the senior attorneys for the honour.
Warnock-Smith, in her message to the newest members of the senior legal fraternity ranks, added, “I hope that those admitted today to the Inner Bar will always remember this special ceremony. I will always remember my own, in London more years ago now than I care to recall. Taking Silk is the pinnacle of an advocate’s career and it is impossible to underestimate the honour it represents.”
Guidelines governing local appointments, the Chief Justice had said previously, closely mirror those followed in the UK, and that the local guidelines are “more stringent in one important respect – eligibility based on years of experience”. UK candidates must have a minimum of 10 years’ experience since admission to the bar, compared to 15 years in overseas territories such as the Cayman Islands.
The rules also specify that at any given time the number of new appointees should be restricted to approximately 10% of the members of the practising Bar.