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UK Lawyer Claims Local Firms Are Breaking LPL

UK Lawyer Claims Local Firms Are Breaking LPL
Paul Garlick QC.

GEORGE TOWN, Grand Cayman (CNS) --  Advice from a British lawyer instructed by a group of MLAs has fuelled further controversies surrounding the Legal Practitioners Law.

The QC from London chambers claims that local law firms are breaching the existing legislation and conspiring to employ overseas lawyers unlawfully. The advice from Paul Garlick QC, set out in correspondence read to the Legislative Assembly on Friday by East End MLA Arden McLean, concluded that the law firms are breaking several sections of the current law, which has caused more uncertainty over the passage of the new legislation.

The legal opinion was read as part of a personal explanation as the LA resumed following committee deliberations. McLean said that during the debate on the legislation last week, Attorney General Samuel Bulgin had stated that firms were not breaking the law by practicing overseas. However, McLean said that the independent members had sought their own opinion, which offered a very different position.

MLAs were set to debate the legislation on Friday in committee, which after weeks of wrangling had passed through its second reading unanimously. But the advice read to the parliament derailed plans to go through the suggested changes and agreed compromises. With just two days left before the Legislative Assembly is dissolved ahead of Nomination Day and other laws still to be dealt with, the new law is now in jeopardy.

For more than ten years, successive governments have failed to arrive at a piece of legislation that meets the long-standing conflict in the profession: on one side the need for protectionism for Caymanian attorneys and a way to provide a path to the top of the sector, and on the other side the desire by the leading offshore firms to have the freedom to choose who they recruit and promote, regardless of the immigration law, and their goal of practicing Cayman law anywhere overseas.

With a pressing need for a professional code of conduct and changes to the old law to ensure that the jurisdiction passes its next Financial Action Task Force review, Financial Service Minister Wayne Panton has tried to find that compromise in order to get backing from the entire House. However, the opposition benches and some local attorneys have stood hard and fast against the proposed law, which has dominated this final sitting of the Legislative Assembly ahead of the election.

While the independent MLAs who have been focusing on this law have denied that they are using it as a political target to defeat the government, Panton believes their constant allegations that the major local law firms are breaking the law is purely political and is undermining the financial services sector, which remains the backbone of the country’s economic fortunes.

Following the reading of Garlick’s legal opinion, the attorney general said he stands by his original opinion. The MLAs then returned to the committee proceedings to deal with the planning minister’s various pieces of legislation.

Government has almost completed all of its other legislation but the LPL was expected to be dealt with today (Monday 27 March).