Lawyers show benefit of foreign offices
As political and public pressure mounts about the sidelining of Caymanians in the legal profession, the Cayman Islands Law Society (CILS) is mounting a defence to demonstrate how the country benefits from scholarships and direct financial contributions.
Data collected from nine top law firms prove that in six years over 300 scholarships to Caymanians have been granted by the law firms.
The government of the Cayman Islands netted more than US $24 million in direct revenue in 2011 from foreign offices of the nine law firms. Direct revenue generated by foreign offices in 2012 was close to US $28 million representing an increase of 16 per cent on the previous year.
The information was contained in a letter obtained by Cayman Net News dated 14 February, written to the President of the Cayman Islands Law Society Alasdair Robertson. The letter represented the findings of accounting firm Grant Thornton, which was engaged by the CILS to collect such data. Responses were received from 12 firms, some of which disclosed nil returns or confirmed that data would not be provided, read the letter.
In the six years to the end of December 2012, 27 opportunities were offered to Caymanians to be seconded to overseas law offices. Only 18 of these were accepted.
In 2012 there were seven such opportunities. This was an increase of 16 per cent on 2011 and an increase of 133 per cent from the low point in 2007 and 2008,” the letter read.
Law firms registered in the Cayman Islands have been under political pressure as a draft Legal Practitioners Bill 2012 has been taking shape.
They have constantly been accused of sidelining Caymanians and frustrating their ascension to the high echelons of the firms.
“We know how many partners we have made Caymanian, but we don’t know how many Caymanians you have made partners,” one vocal politician has noted.
A particular area of concern in the Bill that was presented to the Legislative Assembly late last year has been the eligibility of persons to practice the laws of the Cayman Islands and whether attorneys who practice Cayman law outside of the jurisdiction should be able to obtain practicing certificates.
Contained in the draft bill are requirements for law firms registered in the Cayman Islands to assist the poor, assist in a youth programme, assist in rehabilitation of offenders, among a raft of other measures that will ensure each firm’s good standing with the immigration department.
The bill also seeks to ensure that a law firm wishing to be recognised as qualified must apply in writing to the Legal Council and must meet a host of criteria and provide information on the number of equity partners, salaried partners and associate partners in the firm and the date on which they were made partners; the number of equity partners, salaried partners and associate partners that are Caymanian and the number of equity partners, salaried partners and associate partners who were Caymanians when admitted to practise as an attorney-at-law in the Islands, among other requirements.
In responding to this, the firms noted that in the six years to December 2012, 110 legal scholarships had been granted of which 33 remain current.
In the same period, 203 non-legal scholarships were granted, of which 40 remained current.
The firms have been required to disclose the number of Caymanians who are associates of the firm and whether the firm provides articles for Caymanian graduates of the Truman Bodden Law School or any other internationally accredited institution that offers a law degree programme.