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Stuart defends lawyers on fees

Chris Gollop

Stuart defends lawyers on fees

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PRIME MINISTER Freundel Stuart on Tuesday came to the defence of the legal profession, noting that Barbadians were often too quick to criticize lawyers for charging exorbitantly high fees for their services.
Speaking in the House of Assembly  on amendments to the Land (Title Proceedings) Bill 2011, Stuart said that in the best of “all possible worlds” , the public would have to pay “nothing at all” for the services offered by various professionals, but that was not feasible.
But how could it be reasonable, he asked, for people seeking title deeds for property valued at $400 000 to pay a legal fee in the amount of $200.
To this end, he said that while no one said anything about the expensive homes being built or the high cost of the land, yet they would question the fees being charged by lawyers facilitating the process.
“I don’t subscribe to that,” said Stuart, noting that the bank charges were not questioned, nor were the fees charged by doctors, dentists and other professionals.
Yet, it was somehow expected that lawyers who were involved in “big transactions” were expected to charge small fees, he said.
He acknowledged that the system could be abused, but as a lawyer himself, his experience was that for the most part lawyers charged according to the particular case and circumstance of the client.
“You can’t expect a lawyer to work on a big transaction and find fault with his fees. The fees charged by doctors or dentists are not a problem.”
To his mind, Government had done its part in bringing the amended legislation to the floor of Parliament to bring an end to the “lacuna” in which Barbados found itself.
This, he said, was as a result of the issue of a practice direction issued by a former Chief Justice that resulted in the Registrar of the Supreme Court and its staff being reluctant to issue new title deeds.
This had for since October 2009 resulted in a backlog of title suits that had affected small landowners and big developers as well.
“It had affected all classes,” Stuart said, adding that the new legislation would bring “clear procedure” and “clarity” to the acquisition of land titles.
To this end, he gave credit to Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite and his staff for a job well done in bringing the comprehensive new legislation to Parliament.