President of the Barbados Bar Association (BBA) Rosalind Smith-Millar has lamented the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected training for student lawyers.
Her view mirrors that of Chief Justice Sir Patterson Cheltenham, who yesterday admitted he was “troubled” that a crop of new attorneys slated to be admitted to the Bar next Friday had not been exposed to any training opportunities.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Smith-Millar said the situation was not ideal and meant that those new attorneys-at-law would be disadvantaged.
“I agree that the pandemic has had a negative impact on the ability to deliver the same quantity and quality of on-the-job training for young attorneys and we are going to have to find a way for the Bench and the Bar to collaborate to find ways to train them in the areas that need beefing up.
“With physical distancing and COVID lockdowns, it’s obvious that some of the programmes that the Bar or law offices would normally run for students had to be put on hold or scaled down. We are aware of the deficit that has occurred but any programmes that we are planning have to be thought through to fit the current circumstances and we would be happy to collaborate to the extent that we can work with the judges to provide that training,” Smith-Millar said.
“Unfortunately in the same way that all of our school children are disadvantaged by having to try to learn from at home; they miss the school environment and the skills that can only be acquired in person. The same kind of effect will happen with lawyers in training. Hopefully, as they join the profession they will gain access to additional opportunities.”
Smith-Millar revealed that the Bar association had facilitated several training sessions throughout the pandemic.
However, she explained those sessions targeted more experienced lawyers.
“We have had a lot of training opportunities offered to members of the Bar but of course, students would not have access to a lot of that information, but there have been a lot of training webinars put on by the Caribbean Court of Justice, the OECS Bar, the Barbados Bar, the Trinidad Bar, the Jamaica Bar, and we tried to circulate that information largely through the Organisation of Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Association, so that all members of all Bars in the region would have access to that information and can attend the training webinars that have been offered.
“However, those were made available to lawyers in practice, not law students at the time,” Smith-Millar said. (RB)