Chairman of the General Legal Council of Jamaica, Michael Hylton QC said a similar situation obtains in Barbados and Antigua-Barbuda.
“In those three jurisdictions- and we speak about Jamaica in particular-there is an increasing problem- I’m sorry to say- of lawyers mishandling clients; money. It is a serious problem,” he said during a presentation on “Continuing Legal Professional Development: The Jamaica Model” held at the Pegasus Hotel. That presentation was held under the auspices of the Improved Access to Justice in the Caribbean- Impact Justice Project and the Guyana Bar Association.
Mr. Hylton said he plans to organise a seminar by three panelists – one from Guyana, one from Jamaica and another from Jamaica’s Legal Council to discuss how it is done in the two jurisdictions. He hopes that the Guyana model can be adopted by Jamaica to eliminate the possibility of skullduggery.
“It’s no use continuing with a system where the solution is to lock up the lawyers who breach …,” he said.
Mr Hylton also intends to examine Guyana’s Legal Practitioners Act.
The core of his presentation focused on the introduction in recent years of a system of continuing education before lawyers are granted approval to practice. There is a system of continuing education for other professions such as medicine and accountancy.
President of the Guyana Bar Association, Christopher Ram endorsed the need for continuing professional development to be better informed so that they could serve their clients efficiently. “It is absolutely urgent that Guyana moves towards some form of professional legal education,” he said.
Guyana’s Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams says Continuing Legal Education is provided for in the proposed revised agreement for the Council of Legal Education to be ratified by the Legal Affairs Committee of Attorneys General. “The government of Guyana requires that respect for and the application of the rule of law shall attend all our engagements. Attorneys-at-Law, whether members of the Bar or not are best suited to guarantee this. However, they need to be aware of and updated on developments of the law. Continuing legal education would, therefore, be an invaluable adjunct,” he said.
The Impact Justice Programme is being funded by the Canadian government and is being executed by the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies.