September 17, 2012
Growing number of attorneys-at-law may do more good than harm
SHELDON WILLIAMS, Staff Reporter
With the increase in options for law students to read for a Bachelor Of Laws (LL.B.) degree reducing the dependence on attending the University of West Indies, there are now concerns that there may be a glut of attorneys in the legal profession.
Statistics obtained from the General Legal Council that is the regulatory body mandated to maintain the ethics of the legal profession to which all attorneys should adhere, illustrate that there are approximately 2,453 attorneys who are currently registered to practice law in Jamaica.
That represents an increase of 127 attorneys who have been enrolled since the previous count last year.
Interestingly, the number does not include those attorneys who work in the government services but is focused primarily on attorneys who practice privately.
THE STAR sought insight into the growing number of attorneys-at-law entering the practice and the apparent clog that exists.
In an interview with THE STAR, Dean of the Faculty Of Law at the University Of The West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus, Dr Derrick McCoy said the increase would do more good than harm.
According to McCoy, the increase in numbers would garner competition and inevitably lead to greater and more satisfactory legal representation.
"Those who are already in it don't wish for competition ... The more competitive it is, it means only the best ones will provide the better service," McCoy said.
Moreover, he emphasised that, "if we insist on a system that is not adequately staffed, we will have a problem.We allow the public to chose the very best".
Checks by THE STAR revealed that there has been an increase in the number of students reading for an LL.B. at the University College Of The Caribbean (UCC) that offers a distant-education approach for students to earn the degree through the University Of London.
Shevon Robinson, student services officer at UCC, revealed that there are now 150 students enrolled in the programme comparable to 110 in the previous year.
However, Robinson was quick to point out that the alumni are not worried about the glut that may or may not exist locally because, "our students are geared towards looking at an international prospectus rather than a local prospectus".
Interestingly, he hinted that upon graduation, alumni would normally consider emigrating to other jurisdictions.
"They would chose countries where law is being practised in a minority."
At the same time, THE STAR sought the opinions of two law students at different levels in their study.
Kenyatta Powell, who is a second-year student at the Norman Manley Law School, revealed that, " I have to admit that I do not share the concerns of others about a glut of lawyers in the profession. I think the larger numbers of graduates will find creative avenues of making a career in the law."
He added, " Not everyone is going to practice (become an advocate) in the traditional sense of the term and so there are other non-traditional avenues that may be open to young attorneys."
Jeffrey Foreman, final-year student at UWI Cave Hill Campus, remarked, "... With more people gaining access we might see more people gaining access to legal representation or knowing someone to consult on their rights. More areas of law in Jamaica, like intellectual property, sports, and entertainment law might grow as people try to distinguish themselves in a crowded field."