This practice guide provides information on the legal systems in the Caribbean, the regulation and representation of the profession and an outline of how solicitors qualified in England and Wales can be admitted to the local bars.
The Legal System:
English common law forms the basis of legal systems in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Other Caribbean jurisdictions use civil law based on French, Dutch and Spanish codes.
Regulation of legal profession:
The Governments of Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Turks and Caicos Islands have signed an agreement establishing a Council of Legal Education which sets common education and training standards for their jurisdictions.
The Council of Legal Education determines the education and training standards for persons with a law degree from the University of the West Indies or from institutions in common law countries (see below for requalification). It operates the three regional law schools, located in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and the Bahamas, which issue Certificates of Legal Education.
Governments of the above countries recognise that a person with a Certificate of Legal Education has the appropriate education and training for admission to the profession in that country. There may be additional requirements in order to practice beyond education and training criteria. Admission to the bar, complaints, discipline and continuing legal education are determined at a national level by the bar association or government body.
Representation of the legal profession:
Each jurisdiction has its own national bar association to represent the profession, and in some cases perform a regulatory role.
There are two regional bar associations covering jurisdictions based on English common law: the Organisation of Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Associations (OCCBA) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Bar Association.
OCCBA: Anguilla, Antigua, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica and the Cayman Islands.
OECS Bar Association: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.
The regulatory authority in each jurisdiction can provide further information on admission to the bar.
The Legal Professions Act states that a person who applies to the Supreme Court to practice law and who is qualified to practice law in any country which the Chief Justice designates as having an analogous system of laws, is of good character and who pays the appropriate registration fee, may be admitted to practice law and entered on to the Roll. The Registrar at the Surpreme Court of Belize maintains the roll of attorneys admitted to practice in the jurisdiction.
The Bermuda Bar Association provides information on admittance to the Bar for foreign lawyers on its website as well as information for admission for special proceedings.
British Virgin Islands
Qualified English solicitors can apply to the High Court to be admitted to the BVI Bar. They will need the assistance of a local solicitor to file the application on his/her behalf and a local attorney to swear an affidavit in support attesting to the candidate’s good character.
Contact the BVI High Court Registry for further information: telephone + 1 284 494 3492, fax + 1 284 494 6664.
Solicitors admitted to practice in England and Wales can apply for admission in the Cayman Islands if (a) they have an offer of employment from a firm in the Cayman Islands, (b) they have an employment permit under part V of the immigration law, (c) they have three year’s post qualification experience at the time of application. Visit the Cayman Law Society website for further information.
To practice in Grenada. an English solicitor is required to be admitted to practice at the Grenada Bar. To find out more visit its website.
Solicitors qualified in England and Wales can be admitted to the Bar in St. Lucia. If someone has completed the LPC but not yet completed the training contract, they must complete a five year internship with a firm in St. Lucia before they can be admitted to the Bar. Contact the Attorney General’s Chambers for more information.