|Lawyers hope new act will strengthen industry|
|Written by JASON SMITH|
|Wednesday, 19 September 2012 15:00|
“I suspect there are probably more lawyers practising BVI law outside the BVI than in the BVI,” Mr. Peters said. “I think that’s a fact of life that’s not going to change.”
Some of the territory’s commercial lawyers fear that their business is being threatened by lawyers who practise VI law overseas without living in the territory or having a connection to a law firm here.
The Legal Professions Act, 2012, which received its first reading in the House of Assembly on Sept. 3, could help remedy that issue, lawyers hope.
Keisha Durham, the president of the BVI Bar Association and a commercial lawyer with Harneys, said Monday that the bill is common in other jurisdictions but a “landmark development” in the VI.
“Prior to this there’s been no legislation like this that covers the regulation of the legal profession, discipline, admission to practice, everything all together in one place,” she said.
The bill would establish a VI Legal General Council to regulate the profession. It would also require all lawyers who practice VI law to be belongers or VI residents or to have a connection to a law firm with a VI office.
Ms. Durham said that the association believes that the requirements are needed to ensure that VI legal practitioners maintain high standards.
“We’re a new and very vibrant jurisdiction when it comes to that, so someone who is not on the ground and not connected to a firm on the ground has a disadvantage in terms of really being able to give not only knowledge of the law but the nuances of practice,” she said.
Lewis Hunte, QC, the author of the 1984 International Business Companies Act that largely created the territory’s financial services sector, said Monday that he doesn’t feel the rules proposed in the bill are unduly restrictive.
“Right now, the legal profession is in need of greater regulation and the bill addresses that,” he said.
He added that other countries are more restrictive than the VI, which currently charges lawyers a one-time fee to practise law for an unlimited period.
“In the Bahamas, if you are not from the Bahamas you have to be admitted to the Bahamas every time you come to do a case. If you come to the Bahamas to take part in a hearing, once the hearing is completed, your permission expires,” he said.