#BTEditorial – Protecting the image of the legal profession

If there were national rankings for the most important and deserving professions, lawyers would rank in the higher echelons. It’s a career that takes years of study and training, and those who reach the top are well rewarded financially and generally admired by the community.

The Canadian Judicial Council describes the role of lawyers as simply guiding their clients through the legal system. They act as advisors in legal disputes, work in corporations, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and others choose to focus on defending their clients’ interests in court in criminal and civil matters. .

In addition to representing their clients in court, lawyers also provide advice to their clients, conduct legal research and draft legal documents.

It is still the dream of many young boys and girls in Barbados to become a lawyer. They feel this way not just because of the perceived financial gain, but because they want to stand up for the rights of those who have no voice, who demand that others stand up against abuses of power and ensure fair treatment. for everyone.

Despite their status and importance to many aspects of our lives, the noble profession is still the subject of unflattering comments that often question its integrity.

And lately, several lawyers have found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Some have been convicted, disbarred and some, sadly, even imprisoned.

During a recent telephone radio broadcast, an interesting perspective was offered by a member of the bar association of Barbados, who enjoys some credibility. She argued that many lawyers are brilliant at law but dismal at running their businesses.

The fact is, unless new lawyers can find a place in established law firms or corporations, they are forced to start their own practice. There is no denying that Barbados is full of lawyers and the competition is fierce. It is estimated that there are over 1,500 lawyers and the number continues to grow each year.

In addition to hiring the services of a secretary, a legal clerk and possibly a messenger, they must have someone to take care of their accounts while they do legal research, which is a natural part of practicing law, maintain communication with clients, make sure they earn enough to pay employees, rent, and other expenses, and the list goes on.

Unfortunately, some lawyers struggle to manage all of these responsibilities. And unless they’re able to competently run their law firms or can hire the resources to make sure they do, they may find themselves dipping into their clients’ accounts when problems arise. cash arise.

This is not an excuse for unethical behavior, but it is an essential factor that lawyers need to discuss more openly and frankly. Young lawyers should not be fooled into thinking they will get rich overnight or even at all.

In 2020, prominent lawyer Marguerite Woodstock Riley QC, who was called to the bar in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and who worked on reforming disciplinary procedures for lawyers, argued that ‘there were options that could be pursued to rebuild the name of the profession that was besmirched by a few bad actors.

“The proposal is to take the funds out of the hands of lawyers. Real estate transactions – withholding of funds is clearly the area of ​​most, if not all, write-off cases. There is a reasonable solution, and it is pursued in personal injury claims where the payee writes two checks – one to the attorney and one to the client, so the attorney does not have the client’s funds.

“The reality is that there should be no objection to not having these funds once your fees are secured or any expenses you have had. Whatever complications may arise… creative solutions must be Woodstock-Riley argued.

She was speaking at an IMPACT Justice virtual public conference on disciplinary proceedings for lawyers titled: Does one bad apple ruin the whole bouquet? Protect against this bad apple.

During this session, she overturned a long-held belief that it is young people entering the legal profession who get entangled in unethical and sometimes illegal practices. In fact, she warned they were often “senior barristers” with “substantial practices” as she wondered why they were in the position they were in.

What we are absolutely sure of is that lawyers should be held to the highest standards. At the same time, it is in the interests of the profession and the clients it serves that there is ongoing training in the management of their business. This is as essential for all lawyers as their legal expertise.

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About Charles D. Goolsby

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