Court leaders needed, chief justice tells law schoolFriday, October 22, 2021
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, while heaping praises on the law faculty of the University of the West Indies, has urged that body to explore the development of courses within the law degree programme to equip graduates to manage other aspects of the court system.
“One of the observations I would like to make, and this is by way of observation, not criticism, is that there is no course specifically designed for court management, and so the question that arises then, notwithstanding the outstanding track record of the Faculty of Law in producing lawyers, in managing a legal system is an LLB (bachelor of laws degree) sufficient?” questioned Sykes, who was the keynote Speaker at the Mona Law Faculty's recent 7th Annual Symposium.
“At the apex of our systems we have chief justices, presidents of courts of appeal, chancellors supported by registrars and deputy registrars, all well trained lawyers, largely from The University of the West Indies. Are these persons sufficiently prepared before, or even after assuming office, in a more for less environment with an increasingly demanding population?” added Sykes.
The chief justice argued that, while the degree is a good anchor, the question was whether it was all that is needed by individuals who find themselves in varying management roles in the court system.
“The LLB is a good degree; the one from The University of the West Indies is an excellent one. It has proven itself over and over, but for the purposes of running the court system, is that all that they need? Can those skills be used as an anchor to improve court leadership and management in the future?” the chief justice said as he pointed to the example of the registrar of the Supreme Court who, while being a trained lawyer, has functions more centred around leadership of people, processes, and procedures, and to develop policies to improve service delivery.
“Is there anything in the LLB programme or the training of lawyers that prepares future court leaders for leadership in this era of more with less? Effective legal service is not just legal knowledge but drawing on other discipline to have efficient court systems such as strategic planning, budgeting, data analysis,” said Sykes.
In countering arguments that the LLB programme is already crowded, he added: “I am simply saying every class has in it a future chief justice, president of the court of appeal, a registrar, a court leader. So can we have summer courses…courses designed for court leaders at different levels. Not everyone will choose to practise law, but may very well become court administrators.”
Dean of the faculty, Dr Shazeeda Ali, in responding to the chief justice's observations said, “I hear the suggestions and observations in terms of our own role in helping to produce persons who will be better judges and administrators, and I hope that we can find a way to work together to develop courses and programmes that can aid the judiciary so that as we progress we can all help to see the kind of justice system we all desire and that our citizens truly deserve.”