Call to raise the Bar
“Too many shortcomings” is the complaint the Barbados Bar Association has about the Legal Profession Act, the main body of laws governing lawyers.
And the association is urging Government to come with a new package of laws that would fix deficiencies in areas including continuing education, advertising and the disciplining of lawyers.
President Leslie Haynes, QC, said these and other recommendations made to Government some years ago by Professor Keith Patchett, an expert in constitutional law, and distinguished legal scholar Sir Roy Marshall “need to be implemented as a matter of urgency”.
“The Legal Profession Act needs overhauling. We have been speaking to the Attorney General’s Chambers in relation to achieving the repeal of the present Legal Profession Act and the re-enactment of a new Legal Profession Act,” Haynes told the DAILY NATION on Saturday during a break in a seminar the association held at Hilton Barbados on conveyancing.
The Bar wants it to become mandatory for lawyers to continue their legal education, accumulating credits on the way, if they are to go on practising in Barbados.
“There is no mandate here in Barbados under the present Legal Profession Act for obtaining those credits, but continuing legal education is a must,” he said.
According to Haynes, the law has to address advertising, an area where there are some differences of opinions and of practice.
“As it presently stands, attorneys are not allowed to advertise, but you are seeing more and more advertisements. Younger attorneys are picking up the ways of attorneys from the United States.
“In the offshore sector, attorneys advertise on the Internet. So younger attorneys are [asking] if the offshore attorneys can advertise on the Internet, why can’t [they].”
There is also some concern about the way the committee that deals with disciplinary matters functions and is constituted.
“There is only one disciplinary committee, consisting of four or five persons headed by Miss Cicely Chase, Queen’s Counsel,” Haynes pointed out.
“The work is too much. We have recommended that this disciplinary committee should have at least three divisions so that more than one committee can sit at the same time.”
Haynes admitted that some attorneys were taking advantage of the loopholes under the present act “essentially to find ways of delaying” disciplinary matters.
Noting some Bar Association concerns, he said: “It’s a hearing and you find that unless the lay person retains an attorney to prosecute the case, the disciplinary committee essentially has to help that person prosecute the case.
“There is always that fine line between helping a person prosecuting the case and prosecuting the case yourself and then having to judge it.”