In February 2016, a new General Legal Council was appointed for a term of three years. Five members were appointed for the first time.
On 23rd March 2016, as a consequence of the outgoing Chairman indicating that he would not seek re-election, the members elected me to serve as Chairman.
I pay tribute to the outgoing Chairman, Hon. B. St. M. Hylton, QC, for the vision and industry with which he has led the Council during the preceding six years. The Legal Profession is forever indebted to him and we are fortunate that he continues to be a member of the new Council.
Further, I also wish to thank the outgoing members who have not been reappointed to Council for their hard work and dedication in the service of the Legal Profession. It should also be noted with gratitude that the outgoing members have all agreed to serve on committees of the Council.
In April 2016 the offices of the General Legal Council were relocated to the west wing of 78 Harbour Street and it is hoped that this relocation will render the Council more efficient and it will certainly result in the saving of expense. It is the intention that, with the relocation of the General Legal Council, all services will be provided at 78 Harbour Street.
Further, 78 Harbour Street has also been renovated to provide hearing rooms for the Disciplinary Committee and sittings of the Disciplinary Committee will be held at this location with effect from May 2016. The holding of hearings of the Disciplinary Committee at the Supreme Court will for the most part be eliminated. It is hoped that persons attending hearings of the Disciplinary Committee will find the new location to be more accommodating.
The work of several important Committees of the General Legal Council has continued and particularly that of the Accreditation Committee. There are a total of 248 current accredited courses listed on the Council’s website, which is a testament to the work of the Accreditation Committee.
The General Legal Council’s program of CLPD has grown from strength to strength as the CLPD Committee continues to offer quality accredited seminars that are accessible to all attorneys throughout the Island.
The year 2016 will be a challenging year. In the last three years the General Legal Council incurred significant losses in the course of its operations. This has compelled the Council to seek a modest increase in practising fees which will take effect in May 2016. The increase will not be retroactive. This means that attorneys who have paid practising fees for 2016, prior to the increase taking effect, will not pay any increased fee until January 2017.
In the coming year the General Legal Council plans to:
(a) introduce a compensation fund;
(b) implement rules to regulate the charging of contingency fees; and
(c) amend the rules of advertising that are contained in the Canons of Professional Ethics.
I would like to thank the members and staff of the General Legal Council and of the Disciplinary Committee for their dedication and hard work. We rely on the continued support and cooperation of the Legal Profession as the General Legal Council continues to discharge its statutory mandate.