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EDITORIAL: Closer look at legal profession


EDITORIAL: Closer look at legal profession

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THE LEGAL PROFESSIION in Barbados, as a result of recent incidents, is facing an unusually high level of public scrutiny — as well as criticism that suggests the way its members conduct themselves with clients is not improving their image.

It is also quite clear that because of the public interest in the case involving Speaker of the House of Assembly Michael Carrington QC, the way the matter has been handled so far by Parliament, and the absence of any explanation from the man at the centre of the controversy, this will remain a source of discussion for some time.

Our aim today, however, is not to join the debate with a focus on any of the individuals involved, but rather to support yesterday’s call by Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss for the country to see this as an opportunity for a comprehensive review and reform of our legal profession.

We share the minister’s view that our approach over the years has apparently been to respond to individual incidents rather that put measures in place for comprehensive reform that would lead to fewer opportunities for clients to make allegations of wrong-doing.

There is also much merit in the minister’s suggestion that it is time for some non-lawyers to sit on the disciplinary committee of the profession. There are clear thinking, intelligent professionals all over this country with the capacity to assist in adjudicating complaints against lawyers and contrary to what some attorneys may believe, they have no monopoly on understanding or commonsense.

But Minister Inniss also makes another critical point that is more than worthy of further examination. He points to the suggestion that the regime for the management of legal fees may not be in the best interest of the country.

In just about every sphere of life the price of a good or service is influenced significantly by supply and demand. In the legal profession, however, because fees are set in an almost statutory manner the environment is anything but competitive.

It would be interesting to know if the Fair Trading Commission has any jurisdiction over, or opinion on, this matter.

But with 12 lawyers in the House of Assembly, including five on the Government side, the profession is perfectly placed to initiate the kind of change that matters, both to the country and the image of the profession itself. They have the wherewithal to head off all opposition at the pass by taking the lead role in the kind of reform that just about every right-thinking Barbadian knows is necessary.

So we wait with bated breath to see  if we are experiencing another nine-day wonder.