The draft of tough new laws and regulations will be in place by January next year on governing the conduct of lawyers, particularly for theft of clients’ money, discipline and the requirements to ply their trade in Barbados.
President of the Barbados Bar Association (BBA) Kaye Williams has disclosed that a preliminary version of the revised Legal Profession Bill will be provided to the bar by the Law Reform Commission no later than January for comment.
Using the provisions of the bill as her reference point, Williams is adamant that findings of theft from clients and related misconduct, destroy the reputation of not only the legal profession, but also Barbados as a business jurisdiction
“Attorneys at law will therefore face a tough new legislative and regulatory framework in 2024 if the changes for which the Barbados Bar Association has been asking are passed in a revised Legal Profession Bill. The Barbados Bar Association has been informed by the Law Reform Commission that the draft Bill will be provided no later than January 2024,” the bar leader told Barbados TODAY on Saturday.
“One such proposal includes imposing pre-requisites that have to be met every year in order to practise. Annual Practicing Certificates are currently granted ‘as a matter of course’ when the yearly fees are paid to the Supreme Court. This can no longer continue,” she contended.
Williams highlighted that it is illegal for any attorney to practise law without a Practising Certificate and that it will not be business as usual to obtain that certificate.
“Not only must members be subject each year to compulsory legal education training, the Barbados Bar Association has advocated for rigorous accounting rules, which have to be met before any attorney-at-law can obtain their annual practising certificate. Every year, client accounts must be verified and audited and the reports certified and issued by accountants,” she asserted.
She said there must be a legislative framework that not only provides for annual monitoring of client accounts, but also stiff penalties to ensure compliance.
“The aim of the legislative provisions is to ensure that each and every year, clients’ funds are safe and that clients’ accounts are in order before the issuance of a Practising Certificate to an attorney-at-law. The requirement for financial probity among attorneys is essential within the legal profession and indeed a requirement for the due administration of justice,” Williams suggested.
Turning her attention to the issue of discipline, the legal professionals’ head revealed that major changes have been proposed for the Disciplinary Committee, a body she noted is a separate entity to the bar, a fact not generally known by the public.
“That notwithstanding, the BBA has recommended extensive changes to entirely revamp the system of discipline in terms of its governance, size, composition, and powers. One proposal is that the current system of discipline needs to be replaced with an entirely new body led by a legally trained chairman, comprising of members of the public, civic society and retired Judges,” Williams announced.
She added: “It will act as a properly funded and staffed tribunal in order to determine all complaints in a prompt, fair manner. Under the current system, if an attorney is disbarred and ordered to repay, that is the end of the disciplinary process. The power to enforce the Court Order to repay lies with another arm of the legal system entirely.”
The bar believes that the body imposing the discipline must have certain powers to ensure swifter justice for the public as well as enforcement of orders made for restitution and repayment of client funds.