Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Bad lawyers hurting legal profession

Published:Sunday | April 17, 2016 | 4:00 AMArthur Hall

New chairman of the General Legal Council (GLC), Allan Wood, QC, has his sights set on introducing more protection for persons who fall victims to unscrupulous attorneys.

Wood was recently elected to succeed Michael Hylton, QC, who had led the GLC for six years and had indicated that he would not be seeking re-election.

"The GLC will continue its efforts to weed out bad lawyers," Wood told The Sunday Gleaner late last week.

According to the veteran attorney who served on the GLC's Disciplinary Committee for 15 years, over this year, the body plans to introduce a compensation fund and implement rules to regulate the charging of contingency fees.

"The compensation fund might not be a lot, but it will be a start," said Wood as he responded to concerns that in recent times, a number of lawyers have been found to have mishandled assets of their clients.

But he argued that members of the public have to play their part in helping to weed out the bad lawyers.

"Before you go and entrust your money, land or property with an attorney, you should check that they are compliant."

Wood noted that the GLC has on its website a list of lawyers who are entitled to carry out private practices, and a list of attorneys who were issued practising certificates in 2013 but were not cleared to practise in 2014 or 2015.

The website also includes a list of the almost 50 attorneys who have been banned from practising in Jamaica since 1998.

MAKEUSE OF TOOLS

"Members of the public need to make use of the tools available to them," declared Wood who was called to the Jamaican Bar in 1982 and appointed a Queen's Council in 2010.

In the meantime, president of the Jamaican Bar Association, Sherry Ann McGregor, is to initiate renewed discussions on the long-proposed Judicial Code of Conduct.

"It has been floating in the sea," McGregor told The Sunday Gleaner as she added that she would be asking about it when the Bench and Bar Committee meets.

"When one attorney-at-law infringes the law, it affects all members of the profession. So it is important for us not only to preserve our personal integrity but the integrity of the profession as a whole," said McGregor.

She urged young attorneys to align themselves with senior lawyers so they can get effective guidance as they embark on their legal practice.

"They must appreciate that experience teaches wisdom, and there is much more to learn than what you read in books," stressed McGregor as she urged young layers to maintain their integrity and honour at all costs.

McGregor has been an attorney-at-law since 1999 and is a partner in the law firm Nunes Scholefield DeLeon and Co. She was appointed president of the JBA in March.