In October 2018, the two legal professional associations in the Cayman Islands, the Cayman Islands Law Society and the Caymanian Bar Association, merged to form the Cayman Islands Legal Practitioners Association (CILPA). Spencer Vickers recently sat down with David Collins (Interim President) and Erik Bodden (Interim Treasurer) of CILPA to discuss what this new association means for the Cayman Islands and the Cayman Islands legal community.
The formation of CILPA marks the first time that the legal profession in the Cayman Islands is represented by a single, unified and inclusive body. The 2019 Grand Court Opening highlighted the importance of CILPA and its potential to bring together the legal community. CILPA's responsibilities will include supporting lawyers in an increasingly complex regulatory environment, advocating on behalf of sole practitioners and small firms and ensuring the continued strength of the Cayman legal product on the global stage.
Establishment of CILPA
As a new association, CILPA is still taking its first steps. A substantial amount of work is underway to build an association aimed at delivering great value to lawyers, clients and to the Cayman Islands community.
Without taking the time to pause and reflect, it is easy to overlook the substantial growth of the Cayman Islands legal profession over recent years. As the legal profession has grown and matured, legal products have become more sophisticated and complex. As the Cayman Islands financial services industry has evolved and responded to global developments, more regulations and more laws have been enacted. Just as each Cayman Islands lawyer has had to adapt to these changes, so too does the legal profession itself and the association which represents it.
CILPA not only marks the merging of two legal associations, but it represents a transition from associations run solely on the (substantial) goodwill of their key volunteers to a professional independent organisation. While volunteer help will, of course, still be required, the Interim Council is developing plans for CILPA to operate as an independent industry body with its own budget, office and full-time staff. These necessary developments will give CILPA the capability to achieve CILPA's aspirations for a thriving self-regulated legal profession, to support the development of Caymanian lawyers within law firms, to strengthen the local economy and to enable the Cayman Islands to reach new levels of prominence as the leading offshore financial services centre.
Support for lawyers
Most legal practitioners working in the Cayman Islands have already enrolled to be members of CILPA (along with a number of students from Truman Bodden Law School). CILPA representatives continue to meet with lawyers from firms large and small to ensure CILPA has support at grass-roots level. It is important to CILPA that it represents all lawyers, from the largest firms on island to sole practitioners. CILPA sees the membership drive, and the engagement with lawyers of key importance to ensure that the first elected board of CILPA has a true mandate from the legal profession.
Engagement with lawyers during the membership drive has also provided an opportunity for CILPA to listen to the key concerns of lawyers, which can be summarised in the following three categories:
- Status of the Cayman Islands: Lawyers believe that CILPA's key role should be to ensure that the Cayman Islands, as a jurisdiction, remains a leading jurisdiction for legal services. This means a jurisdiction trusted globally for its efficient, reliable and just legal system. CILPA, with its members, should work together to consult on legislation to assist the government in improvements to laws and regulations without compromising Cayman's competitiveness on the global stage.
- Training and development: CILPA should also be active in developing a framework for continuous professional development for all legal practitioners including ensuring that Caymanian lawyers are provided with sufficient support and development opportunities. As the Cayman Islands jurisdiction becomes more complex, it is important for lawyers to have easy access to quality training, particularly for smaller firms. All lawyers need to keep up with new compliance obligations and new regulations. It is critical that a properly resourced training framework can evolve to meet the needs of the profession.
- Regulation of lawyers: There is wide support within the legal profession in Cayman for the regulation of Cayman Islands lawyers, in much the same way that legal professions in other prominent jurisdictions around the world are regulated.
Of course, part of building a unified legal profession is giving lawyers the opportunity to meet each other (outside of the day-to-day adversarial circumstances in which lawyers on different sides often meet). While many professional organisations in the Cayman Islands are very good at organising networking events, there is definite room for improvement within the legal profession. CILPA sees social events as important to build rapport, trust and camaraderie within the legal profession.
Support for the community
The ultimate goal of CILPA is that it will support not just lawyers, but the community at large. A properly regulated legal profession with a fully functioning industry body will give clients and the community more confidence in the jurisdiction and the Cayman Islands legal system.
In relation to the global community, the Cayman Islands is a sophisticated jurisdiction engaged in cross-border work of a significant value. Overseas clients need to maintain confidence in the Cayman Islands as a jurisdiction and a profession. It is of utmost importance that the profession is regulated as overseas clients would expect and that CILPA is a trusted part of that regime.
In relation to the Cayman Islands community, it is equally important for locals to trust lawyers and trust the legal system. With so much work our legal community engages in from overseas, it is incumbent on CILPA to always stay focussed on the Cayman Islands itself, the environment that Cayman Islands lawyers live and work. There is much CILPA can do to help the community and to help the community better understand how Cayman Islands lawyers are representing the jurisdiction to international clients every day.
One of the highlights for the Interim Council of CILPA is the several offers of support from lawyers who have offered to volunteer their time to assist in the development of CILPA. If you are interested in being a part of growing CILPA from the ground up, contact the Interim Secretary, through www.cilpa.ky.
The Annual General Meeting of CILPA is currently expected to be held in May 2019. At the AGM, CILPA members will vote for a new democratically elected council. In order to represent the views of the legal profession, the council is to be made up of seven members, a majority of whom must be Caymanian, and two of which must be sole practitioners or lawyers practising at law firms with fewer than 10 attorneys-at-law. Furthermore, no more than two Council Members may be partners, shareholders, directors or employees of the same law firm. These provisions ensure that sole practitioners and small law firms are well represented on the CILPA council, and that the CILPA council is representative of the wider legal profession.
Once a new Council is elected, it will be tasked with progressing CILPA's mandate and addressing the challenges facing the legal profession. While the Interim Council is confident that CILPA can achieve the substantial goals it has set for itself, we must remember that CILPA can only be what we, the members of the legal profession, make of it.
Further information about CILPA, as well as membership forms, can be found at: www.cilpa.ky
This article was first published in Cayman Financial Review.
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