By NATARIO McKenzie
Tribune Business Reporter
A CABINET Minister yesterday called Bahamian attorneys to “raise the level of commercial practice”, backing the notion that permitting foreign specialist attorneys to practice from this nation would boost the financial services industry.
Speaking at the Eugene Dupuch law School Legal Week , Ryan Pinder, minister of financial services, argued that the Bar had “underserved the Bahamian community”.
He added that the Bahamian legal profession had developed a deficiency due to a “lack of speciality”, but agreed that allowing foreign lawyers to practice in the Bahamas needed to be accompanied by transfers of knowledge and expertise to Bahamians.
Mr Pinder said: “In my opinion, our legal profession has developed a deficiency because of the lack of specialty. When in London last year, I had the opportunity to meet with many of the
prominent law firms who practice in the area of financial services, and in particular, the utilising of international financial centres such as The Bahamas.
“The clear message to me was that the Bahamas, in general, has not done a good job explaining the technical benefits for their clients of our financial services products and, in general, our legal practitioners
themselves do not fully understand the products.
“This is a serious indictment on our legal profession. We must do better, we must have an expertise, and we must specialise and dedicate our respective practices to a particular area, in this context, to the financial services practice.”
Mr Pinder added: “Some argue, although I do not necessarily accept the argument, that our financial services industry has suffered because we as a jurisdiction do not permit foreign specialist lawyers to practice in the Bahamas.
“I do agree with the proposition, however, that permitting foreign specialist lawyers in an industry such as financial services can enhance the industry. It will bring specialty in practice that we might not currently have; it brings international network to the industry to encourage international referral of business. I myself am a lawyer who is licensed in multiple jurisdictions, and has practiced law in multiple jurisdictions. I know first hand the potential benefits.
“If, however, we decide that we will go this route, we also must ensure a proper framework is put in place to allow for a transfer of expertise to Bahamian lawyers. There must be mentorship opportunities as well as succession planning. We also must ensure that the majority ownership of law firms remains in the hands of Bahamians, therefore allowing the international legal expertise that may come to the Bahamas to enhance the value and operations of Bahamian-owned enterprise,” the Minister added.
“I believe that through proper consultation, and with a creative approach, we can strike that delicate balance that allows for the enhancement of the financial services sector, promotes specialisation and knowledge transfer for Bahamian attorneys, and enhances the law practice of Bahamian law firms. “
Adding that the Bar has “undeserved the Bahamian community”, Mr Pinder said legal drafting was a lost skill.
“Everyone wants to pull a conveyance off the shelf and fill in the blanks,” he added. “I obtained my drafting skills as a junior attorney by drafting from scratch; there were no precedents available to me to ‘fill-in-the-blanks’. Raise the level of commercial practice in the Bar,” he urged.
“Being a specialist gives you the opportunity to be an expert, and opportunity to understand an area of the law better than
anyone. I encourage you to gain the practical expertise and knowledge on the ground, after the bookwork, to understand the level of sophistication.
“Because of the specialist knowledge I have received I have a place in the market and
there is a niche for me,” said Mr Pinder.
“The Bahamas Executive entity is a vehicle to hold a private trust company. A private trust company is an entity that is an establishment that doesn’t require a trustee. A financial services practitioner has to know the vehicle and model that we legislate in this country in order to advise international clients. You will only know this as a specialist.”