Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Proposals for reform of Legal Profession

For at least a few weeks now, there has been a new version of the Legal Practitioners Bill that has been put in circulation. Accompanying it is a Bar Association of Seychelles Bill 2011. It appears that these bills have been put in very limited circulation, so limited in fact, that the people that it concerns the most - the legal practitioners, have not even have sight of these bills. The legal profession have also not been consulted about the policies behind these bills.

The latest version of the Legal Practitioners Bill mentions that it is a December 2010 edition. Previous versions have found great opposition from attorneys. This one is likely to cause the same. It seeks to allow individuals who qualified as lawyers of other countries to automatically qualify as a Seychelles attorney, allowing them to skip pupillage. In fact, it would make it easier for these individuals to become Seychelles lawyers compared to our law students who are going through the proper process. It seeks to create a Law Council with wide powers, amongst them to run the Seychelles bar exams, to discipline lawyers and to alter the qualification requirements to become a Seychelles lawyer. This Law Council will be made up of the Chief Justice, another Judge chosen by the Chief Justice, the Attorney General, a representative from the Ministry of Finance, a representative from the Ministry of Education and 1 member from the Bar Association. This is quite ridiculous. A council of 6 which will regulate the law profession but one that only has 1 member from the legal profession proper.

This new bill also does away with trying to bring in foreign law firms. There are no provisions to bring in the big names such as Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy, White & Case or SJ Berwin. The proponents of these bills have tried to convince the Government that these reforms would bring in the big name law firms and this would in turn bring in more business into Seychelles and create more employment opportunities for our young graduates. Although their previous editions of an LPA failed to address this issue adequately, this edition doesn't even bother to do that.

Yes, this Legal Practitioners Bill 2011 is another piece of nonsense. It's true aim is to give preferential treatment to foreigners, allowing them to qualify automatically as a Seychelles attorney. It's Law Council is designed to control the legal profession and abrogate the independence of the bar, its mandate is likely to be unconstitutional.

The Bar Association of Seychelles Bill 2011 is an epic fail. It seeks to abolish the present Bar Association and replace it with a statutory body that has no extra functions. It's true purpose is to limit the objects of the present Bar Association. Furthermore, the law proposed by this bill is clearly unconstitutional, it seeks to abolish a private organization and it also goes against every Seychellois' constitutional right to freedom of association.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (sites.google.com/site/theseychelleslegalenvironment), the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

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