Restructuring the Bar Association of Barbados to include people from outside the legal profession will not make it any more efficient, according to the head of the legal body.
Responding to calls by Minister of Commerce and International Business Donville Inniss for changes to the structure of the body responsible for policing the conduct of lawyers, President of the Bar Liselle Weekes said the grouping was not averse to including a wider cross-section of people as part of the disciplinary organization.
However, Weekes said more did not necessarily equate to better.
“The idea that there should probably be a wider cross section of persons, or that there should be other persons besides lawyers sitting on a body that disciplines or regulates the profession is not something that the Bar is averse to. We do not have a problem with it,” she told Barbados TODAY.
“I am not certain that having other persons on the disciplinary committee would make it a more efficient body.”
In an address at a workshop on Caribbean Commercial Law on Monday, Inniss said the Bar Association should be relegated to an association of lawyers, and not be retained as a body that deals with matters pertaining to the discipline of attorneys.
According to Inniss, there is need for a “less incestuous and more independent structure” to address issues pertaining to the legal profession.
“I’m therefore a strong advocate for the establishment in law of a new legal services council – similar in structure and form to that of the medical council; a council that comprises of members of the legal profession and individuals who may not be attorneys; a council that is supported not just by statute, but also by the resources of the state.
“If we are truly to have a legal profession in Barbados, as opposed to just . . . a collection of lawyers, then we as a society and you as lawyers, must unshackle your minds and help create a system that not just sustains faith in your profession, but also enhances the profession,” Inniss told the workshop.
However, Weekes said the minister’s position was simply a “perception” and that work had already begun on changes to the disciplinary committee.
She cited a proposal currently before the Attorney General’s Office for an amendment to the Legal Profession Act, which will establish two panels on the disciplinary committee, one of which will include non-lawyers.
The attorney-at-law emphasized that if Inniss was suggesting a separate body comprising non-lawyers and funded by Government, the Bar Association would have no objection.
“The proposed legislation that has been circulated from the Attorney General’s Office addresses that particular issue. We understand what the issue is in terms of public perception because I think what Inniss did was to articulate a perception. I am not certain that those persons would be in a better position to interpret what is a breach of the Code of Ethics than the attorneys-at law who currently sit on it. [However] we understand what the perception is,” she said.