Justin Williams- New President of the Bermuda Bar Council

Justin Williams- President of the Bermuda Bar Council

The Bermuda Bar Council wants to ensure legal practitioners meet a set of standards for post-qualification experience before they go into sole practice.

The Bermuda Bar Association president Justin Williams, who was re-elected to the position for a second year at the professional organisation’s annual general meeting yesterday, told members that they would send recommendations to the Attorney General for his approval and for Parliamentary enactment, in order to “uphold the standards of the profession”.

He said the Bar Council is also looking at the introduction of new practice promotion code, which would address advertising by law firms, as well as best practice guidelines for law firms to regulate attorneys practising from home and smaller offices. He said: “These rules are more up to date and relevant to today’s practice environment, where more attorneys work from home or virtually.”

A further issue that the Bermuda Bar Association will be addressing in the coming year is pupillages. Mr Williams said “Bar Council is appointing a subcommittee to address the shortage of pupillages for new young lawyers, who are required to undergo a period of pupillage before they may commence practice, and possibly create a budget to address the problem”.

Additionally, he said: “One of Bar Council’s functions which consumes a great deal of our time is to advise the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs in his consideration of work permit applications for non-Bermudian attorneys.

“It is a difficult balancing act to protect Bermudians, yet to ensure that we have the requisite expertise in our ranks to maintain the high standards and regard with which our legal system is now viewed overseas.

“Although not everyone may agree on every recommendation I want to assure you that Bar Council puts a great deal of time, effort and consideration into each application to ensure that they are dealt with fairly and in the best interests of Bermuda and our profession as a whole.”

Professional complaints had been dealt with and resolved over the past year, and the introduction of conditional fee arrangements, which he called an alternative to legal aid, is also still being explored.

Mr Williams said the Bar Council has been involved in “Encouraging and assisting with final stages of the implementation of PACE (the Police and Criminal Evidence Act) legislation, particularly as they relate to the detention and questioning of suspects”.

The Notaries Act is also under review. Mr Williams explained: “They have also been drafting and submitting to the Attorney General to be tabled and hopefully approved or recommend changes … these are made with a view to expanding the availability of Notaries Public by removing the requirement for a Notary to be a Bermudian — as well as increasing the fees payable for each,” he said.

Mr Williams had introduced the idea of considering the re-establishment of Queen’s Counsel status for Bermuda lawyers last year, and he said that initiative was ongoing.

In addition to Mr Williams’ election as president, Richard Horseman was elected vice-president and Karen Williams-Smith was elected honorary secretary.

Bar Council members are Christian Luthi, Barclay Simmons, Elizabeth Christopher, Alison Dyer-Fagundo, Cindy Clarke and Mark Chudleigh.


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