Letters to the Editor

There must be a better way for lawyers to maintain compliance

Friday, July 27, 2018

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Dear Editor,

We seemingly have a propensity in this country to engage in unnecessary complexity, even when there are uncomplicated ways to achieve particular ends without compromising the desired objectives.

I refer particularly in this instance to the various compliance requirements of attorneys barred in Jamaica. Every year such attorneys, whether resident and employed within our outside Jamaica, are required to submit various forms to the General Legal Council (GLC), the local regulatory body for attorneys. They are also required, importantly, to submit annual accounting documentation in relation to their receipt, maintenance and disbursement of client funds. If an attorney is not currently residing and practising in Jamaica, he/she is required to submit a declaration in respect of being resident and employed abroad, as it would be unnecessary to submit such accounting information, unless she was actually practising in Jamaica during the year immediately prior, in which case she would need to provide the accounting information for that said year.

Attorneys are further required to submit annually their compliance with the Continued Legal Professional Development (CLPD) regulations, which require that, in order to be issued a practising certificate, each such attorney has to take annually a minimum of 12 credits of continuing legal education courses. If the attorney is living and working abroad, or if is unemployed, pregnant or ill, she may apply for exemption from the CLPD requirements for that year.

Further, all attorneys practising locally must now submit an annual declaration of their activities to be in compliance with the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Naturally, attorneys who desire to practise in Jamaica must make the necessary payment in order to be issued a practising certificate.

I have no objection to complying with the various requirements to maintain my licence/privilege to practise law in Jamaica; however, why can't the GLC cannot adopt a single annual attorney registration form that captures all the obligations?

A short annual attorney registration form, if designed logically and devoid of awkwardly archaic language that obtains with too many forms in Jamaica, would make things easier for all concerned. Naturally, the form would have the normal identity and contact information of the attorney, and perhaps a request of all jurisdictions within which said attorney is licensed. It would thereafter contain information for the attorney to certify as to his compliance with the various requirements, or exemption, where necessary. If the attorney desires to practise in Jamaica for the year of registration, he would so indicate on the form and enclose the practising certificate fee.

In this digital age, the form should be designed to be completed and submitted electronically via a secure GLC website, with the information submitted for the previous year pre-populated on the next year's edition, allowing the attorney to simply update or make any change to the information as necessary. This saves time; a most valuable resource for attorneys.

In relation to CLPD, the course providers should provide attendance forms that each attorney attending would complete and return at the end of the seminar to be submitted to the GLC. This could ultimately lead to the attorneys not having to certify as to CLPD compliance, as the GLC would already have that information and attorneys should be able to track their CLPD compliance online.

Such changes by the GLC, I humbly submit, would allow attorneys to fulfil their annual obligations without undue burden or the need to complete various time-consuming paperwork, and the GLC would still receive the necessary information.

Kevin K O Sangster


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