Friday, May 20, 2011

Regulating Professions - Double Standards

The Wednesday, May 18 2011 issue of the Seychelles Nation, one of the 3 daily newspapers of Seychelles, is one particularly interesting issue for the Robing Room. Readers who went through the advertisements would have seen a very interesting notice from the Ministry of Land Use. In that notice, the Director of Surveys informs members of the public that it is unlawful for anyone to pass him/herself as a Licensed Land Surveyor and that the public should only engage Licensed Surveyors. The notice goes on to actually list out all of the licensed Land Surveyors.

It is very nice, and indeed proper, for a regulated profession, such as Land Surveying to have the support of the authorities. This is how things should be. Unfortunately, this is not the case for all regulated professions. In particular the legal profession in Seychelles.

Lawyers in Seychelles are officially referred to as an Attorney-at-Law. There are no such lawyers entitled as a Counsellor-at-Law. A Barrister or Barrister-at-Law is an academic qualification that some lawyers use to beef up their profile/image - to show that they have also been called to the bar of England & Wales, but a Barrister who has not been admitted as an Attorney-at-Law in Seychelles is not allowed to practice as a lawyer in Seychelles, or hold himself out as being able to do so.

Section 21 of the Legal Practitioners Act makes it an offence for anyone who holds himself out as being able to perform the duties of an Attorney or a Pupil Attorney, when they are not actually one. It does not matter that someone does not use the term or specifically represent themselves as an Attorney-at-Law. So long as the person tries to hold him/herself out as being able to perform the duties of an Attorney, then he/she would fall foul of the law. So these 'Legal Officers' employed by certain companies and Government Departments and Parastatal Organizations would also, in some cases, be breaking the law.

And it's not like the legal profession hasn't tried to do something about it. False lawyers have been reported to the judiciary, the licensing authority and to the Attorney General, to no avail. None of the authorities have cared to do anything about it. It's well known that a few Corporate Service Providers are also masquerading as "Law Firms" and giving legal advice to the public and the authorities are not doing anything about it. Complaints from the Bar Association of Seychelles were not entertained. With nothing being done by the authorities it is therefore not shocking that more individuals go around calling themselves "lawyers". More groups goes around calling themselves "law firms". And now, a Corporate Service Provider has even published an advert on the Seychelles Nation, the daily newspaper mentioned above insinuating that they can provide pupillage.

Yes, as the authorites continue to do nothing, more and more individuals and groups will get more ambitious in how they represent themselves. Many are giving legal advice on Seychelles law that is wrong and some are even drafting documents that are unlawful. None of them have any training in Seychelles law and more importantly, none of them are qualified as Seychelles attorneys.

What does this mean to you? Well, that contract you signed may be invalid, that property that you purchased may be invalidated (and in certain circumstances liable to be confiscated by the Government if you are not Seychellois), those shares that you purchased may be invalidated, that comfort advice that you thought you obtained when you "consulted a lawyer" might mean nothing. Because remember, in the end, if anything goes sour and you have to run to the courts for help, it is the Courts of Law that will determine whether any agreement you actually entered into or any advice you received is actually valid. And the Seychelles courts of law will not be deciding issues using English law, Australian law, Irish law, South African law, Mauritian law, French law or Indian law, it will be deciding matters using Seychelles law.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

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