(Sixth Article in a Series)
by Dr. Lawrence A. Joseph
The Romans are credited to be the first class of people to encourage the development of the legal profession. The profession originated with ordinary people giving assistance to other folks in their communities in connection with legal matters. However, just before the turn of the Fourth Century A.D., Emperor Claudius legalised certain advocates to become the first lawyers to practice openly and be able to charge fees for their advocacy on behalf of others. By the 6th century A.D., individuals began studying the practice of law in special schools. As time went on, the practice of law spread throughout Europe and other countries.
The practice of law in Grenada emanates from that of the United Kingdom. In accordance with the Legal Profession Act of 2011, lawyers in Grenada are referred to as attorneys–at–law. This nomenclature makes no distinction as to whether persons were qualified as barristers at law or solicitors. In order to be able to practice law in Grenada, a person has to satisfy the conditions laid down in either section 17 or 18 of the Legal Profession Act. In general, a person must be of good character; hold the qualifications prescribed by law; has filed an appropriate affidavit of identity; has paid the prescribed fee and he or she has been admitted by the Supreme Court to practice law. It is the responsibility of the Registrar of the Supreme Court to enter the names of eligible attorneys at law on a special Roll. Presently, over seventy-five attorneys at law are entitled to practice law in Grenada.
These attorneys, as professionals in their own right, assist clients in such matters as, conveying property from one person to another, constructing various contracts, making wills, representing persons in court and giving general legal advice to clients. The Legal Profession Act of 2011 gives general guidelines as to how attorneys ought to conduct themselves in their profession. The Act makes provision in section 5 for the establishment of a General Legal Council which is charged with the responsibility of regulating and upholding standards of professional conduct for the legal profession. Schedule 111 of the Act outlines a “Legal Profession Code of Ethics”.
A breach of some of the rules in that Code could lead to the disbarment of attorneys from legal practice. In particular, attorneys owe a special duty to act fairly with their clients. Section 34 of the Act provides that an aggrieved client may make an application to the General Legal Council, supported by an affidavit of facts to require any attorney to answer to allegations of professional misconduct. The Registrar of the Supreme Court is the Secretary of the Council.
Section 4 of the Act fully endorses the continuance of the Grenada Bar Association, which is the body to which all attorneys in Grenada are entitled to become members. The purposes of the Association are, inter alia, to maintain and improve the standards of conduct of its members; to represent and protect the interest of the legal profession in Grenada; to assist the public in all matters relating to law; to promote good relations within the profession and persons concerned in the administration of justice in Grenada and between the profession and the public generally; to promote, maintain and support the administration of justice and the rule of law; and to provide ongoing public education programmes on basic issues of law and current legislation.
In embracing its basic principles, the Grenada Bar Association each year holds a Law Week programme of activities in order to keep a good connection with the general public. This year, the 2013 Law Week is being celebrated from Sunday 13 October, beginning with an 8 am Church Service at the St. George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral and ending on Friday 18th with an evening of social activities of attorneys and friends at the Grenada Yacht Club. During the course of the week, various schools are scheduled to visit the courts and the schools themselves would be given presentations by lawyers. Additionally, a special mock trial with student participants would be held at one of the courts and a number of attorneys are scheduled to pay a visit to Her Majesty’s Prisons. The theme for this year’s celebrations is: “The Grenada Bar Association: Supporting Our Youth”.
The legal profession possesses highly diversified opportunities. A qualified attorney would have the options, inter alia, of engaging in private practice, working for a government or a company, or lecturing at a university. Opportunities are also there for one to become a judge. The profession may be regarded as a noble and elite one, and it certainly provides an essential service to the Grenadian people.