A Bar Association For Fiji?


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A Bar Association For Fiji?

  1. 1. A Bar Association For Fiji?
  2. 2. <ul><li>The rule of law is not necessarily to be equated </li></ul><ul><li>with law and order. Indeed, the rule of law has as </li></ul><ul><li>one of its opposites the imposition of order by the </li></ul><ul><li>use of arbitrary might. Another opposite is the </li></ul><ul><li>absence of order. The rule of law finds its place </li></ul><ul><li>between these two extremes. It may be defined as </li></ul><ul><li>the governance of society by laws, to which all </li></ul><ul><li>citizens, bodies corporate and governments are </li></ul><ul><li>subject, made with the general concurrence of </li></ul><ul><li>society and enforced impartially. </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>Such a society necessarily has as its apex: </li></ul><ul><li>a democratically elected parliament, </li></ul><ul><li>an independent judiciary. </li></ul><ul><li>a police force free of party political control, </li></ul><ul><li>laws which are published by means which makes them accessible to all, and </li></ul><ul><li>an independent legal profession i.e. a legal profession which owes its duty only to the courts and to its clients. </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>It is the legal profession which more than </li></ul><ul><li>any other body of persons ensures that the </li></ul><ul><li>law applies to all, from Prime Minister to </li></ul><ul><li>pauper. It is a role of the legal profession to </li></ul><ul><li>ensure that the law is enforced impartially. </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li> It is also the role of the legal profession to </li></ul><ul><li> safeguard and encourage the growth of an </li></ul><ul><li>independent judiciary. </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>The Judiciary is made up from amongst the ranks of the legal profession. Our Judges and Magistrates are normal people subject to human failings and weaknesses. It is the responsibility of the legal profession to have established a rapport and a line of communication with the Judiciary so that when judgments are not delivered within reasonable time, or when Judges are acting injudiciously, or courts are not starting on time, the profession is able to communicate its concerns to the Judiciary, in the knowledge and with the assurance that its concerns will be considered. </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>You may say that yes – all that is fair </li></ul><ul><li>enough, but we already have the Fiji Law </li></ul><ul><li>Society to address those concerns for us, so </li></ul><ul><li>Is there a real need for a separate </li></ul><ul><li>Bar Association? </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>A strong Bar is at the heart of the </li></ul><ul><li>independent legal profession of any country. </li></ul><ul><li>It is my belief that a Bar Association is a </li></ul><ul><li>workable and necessary means by which </li></ul><ul><li>the bar in Fiji can be strengthened, and the </li></ul><ul><li>legal profession as a whole enriched . </li></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>While the Fiji Law Society does a commendable job in regulating the practice of law in this country, it is not as a body able to prominently address the day to day </li></ul><ul><li>Issues surrounding practice in the Courts in Fiji. </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>There are a number of issues that are relevant, and in many ways </li></ul><ul><li>peculiar, to litigation lawyers in Fiji. These are: </li></ul><ul><li>the development of litigation techniques and skills </li></ul><ul><li>fostering a better relationship with Bench and State Prosecution Office </li></ul><ul><li>getting better facilities in around the Registries and Courts </li></ul><ul><li>setting up a mentor group for younger litigation lawyers </li></ul><ul><li>counselling for litigators facing ethical issues </li></ul><ul><li>counselling for litigation lawyers facing disciplinary allegations </li></ul><ul><li>recognition of excellence as litigation lawyers </li></ul><ul><li>convening social gatherings targeted at litigation practice </li></ul><ul><li>development of better management and administration of litigation </li></ul><ul><li>development of pleadings modules </li></ul><ul><li>development of alternate dispute resolution modules and techniques i.e mediation /arbitration </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>What could a Bar Association offer to these </li></ul><ul><li>Litigation Lawyers? </li></ul><ul><li>A Bar Association could work to: </li></ul><ul><li>encourage and enhance litigation techniques </li></ul><ul><li>Provide relevant training and mentoring </li></ul><ul><li>represent the special needs of litigation lawyers – secure access to court apparel, research resources etc </li></ul><ul><li>encourage a closer working relationship with the Registry and the Bench on matters pertaining to litigation, including delivery of judgments and court lists. </li></ul><ul><li>encourage dialogue with the Registry and the Bench on Regulations pertaining to Litigation i.e. the High Court Rules, Penal Code etc </li></ul><ul><li>encourage new forms of legal practice: Solicitors who instruct a Barrister and encourage specialisation - some people are good at being Barristers </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>There has been a worrying decline in standards of practice in our Courts, and an Organisation committed wholly to the welfare of those who practice in the Courts will be better positioned and more able to </li></ul><ul><li>arrest the decline in standards, and provide relevant training and mentoring programmes. </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>It is of course true that ours is a fused </li></ul><ul><li>profession, and we are a small group. </li></ul><ul><li>All lawyers are governed by one set of </li></ul><ul><li>Regulations and most firms are small one or </li></ul><ul><li>two lawyer practices, which do their own </li></ul><ul><li>litigation. </li></ul><ul><li>This does not mean however, that there is no </li></ul><ul><li>scope for further specialisation within the </li></ul><ul><li>profession. </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>Change can be daunting at first, but there is no reason why a system cannot be set up whereby Solicitors who are not comfortable with advocacy are able to instruct specialist advocates to conduct litigation on their behalf. </li></ul><ul><li>We already instruct Counsel from overseas to attend to cases on our behalf – so why should we not seek to develop a degree of specialisation right here, so that local Counsel are available to attend to matters on our behalf. </li></ul><ul><li>A Bar Association will be able to provide the necessary impetus to bringing about this sea change within the profession. </li></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>The idea of exploring the possibility of having a Bar Association in Fiji arose after a trip taken by senior executives of the FLS to Australia in 2007. </li></ul><ul><li>In most states of Australia the legal profession is not fused, and Bar Associations are compulsory and regulate the practice of members. </li></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>There are other countries, however, where Bar Associations are not compulsory, and members join on a voluntary basis. </li></ul><ul><li>It is this type of voluntary organisation, of persons who appear regularly in the courts in Fiji, that is envisaged for Fiji. </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>The Association would not regulate the entry of members to </li></ul><ul><li>the Bar, nor have any disciplinary functions, but would have </li></ul><ul><li>the following simple objectives: </li></ul><ul><li>Foster professional relationships amongst persons who practice at the bar in Fiji- assist each other with professional issues. </li></ul><ul><li>Mentoring of younger members </li></ul><ul><li>Act as liaison with the bench to address issues of concern to the bar and bench </li></ul><ul><li>Submissions on current issues in the administration of justice affecting barristers/advocates including practice management issues </li></ul><ul><li>Submissions on court administration issues </li></ul>
  18. 18. <ul><li>Formulate policies relating to and monitor conduct issues within the profession </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitate the provision of guidance to members on ethics issues. </li></ul><ul><li>Conduct/facilitate training for barristers on court procedures </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitate the provision of court apparel for members – wigs, gowns, jabots, suits. Set up facility where apparel can be rented by younger members. </li></ul><ul><li>Set up/facilitate legal resources for members </li></ul><ul><li>Duty Barrister scheme – work with Legal Aid </li></ul><ul><li>Carry out charitable works </li></ul>
  19. 19. <ul><li>The Structure of the Association would be similar to other Associate bodies of the FLS. </li></ul><ul><li>The Association would be created under section 13 of the Legal Practitioners Act under the umbrella of the Fiji Law Society </li></ul><ul><li>to maintain and improve the standards of conduct and learning of the legal profession in Fiji </li></ul><ul><li>to promote the welfare and to preserve and maintain the integrity and status of the legal profession </li></ul>
  20. 20. <ul><li>The Association could also in due course look at </li></ul><ul><li>setting up a system of Senior Counsel for Fiji. </li></ul><ul><li>I understand that concern has been raised amongst </li></ul><ul><li>some members of the profession about the propriety </li></ul><ul><li>of lawyers appointing senior counsel from amongst </li></ul><ul><li>themselves. The establishment of a Bar Association, </li></ul><ul><li>with the consequent projected strengthening of </li></ul><ul><li>relations with the bench may well allow for a system </li></ul><ul><li>which will allay these concerns and reward skill and </li></ul><ul><li>achievement within the profession. </li></ul>
  21. 21. <ul><li>Ladies and gentlemen, I sincerely believe that a Bar </li></ul><ul><li>Association will be a step forward for the legal profession in </li></ul><ul><li>this Country. </li></ul><ul><li>I do not think that we should let our paucity in numbers stop </li></ul><ul><li>us from trying to achieve high standards of professionalism </li></ul><ul><li>and achievement in legal knowledge and skill. </li></ul><ul><li>I do not consider it appropriate that we use our political </li></ul><ul><li>dilemmas and constitutional troubles as excuses to stop </li></ul><ul><li>progressing in our professional standards. </li></ul><ul><li>I believe the time is right to start this new chapter within the </li></ul><ul><li>legal profession in Fiji, and I invite you all to join me in </li></ul><ul><li>bringing this concept to fruition. </li></ul>
  22. 22. <ul><li>Thank You </li></ul>