PRIME Minister Perry Christie presented the Bahamas Bar Association with some challenges to make it more responsive to the demands of its position of influence in the nation.
During the official opening of the Bahamas Bar Association’s administrative complex at Mackey Street and Claire Road, the PM said improvements in the disciplinary machinery of the Bar need to be implemented so lawyers who fail to adhere to the standards of integrity required of members of the bar are dealt with severely.
He said: “The offenders in this regard constitute a very small minority of lawyers, but they give us all a bad name. Indeed they do major damage to public confidence in the integrity of the profession.
“The enforcement of ethical standards must therefore remain a matter of the highest priority.”
Prime Minister Christie also noted that continuing legal education should become mandatory.
He said the Government is ready to introduce whatever amendments to the Legal Professional Act may be necessary to make this a reality.
“Lawyers need to stay current with the ever-evolving jurisprudence of our country. Continuing Education is the best way of ensuring that they do.”
The Prime Minister said lawyers of five years standing or more should undertake to do no less than 18 hours of pro bono – or free legal work – on an annual basis.
“This is just 1.5 hours a month!
“ But what a difference it can make in the lives of ordinary people who simply cannot afford to pay for a lawyer.”
He said Queen’s Counsel should undertake to act as leading counsel in pro bono cases within their areas of specialisation at least twice per year.
“I am gratified to learn that based on the initiatives of the Chief Justice and the President of the Court of Appeal some system of pro bono work by the Inner Bar may already be under active consideration.”
The PM also encouraged the Bar Association to establish a public education arm dedicated to the education of the public in general and young Bahamians in particular about the Constitution and about civics generally.
“Let me add that I would encourage all members of the bar to take an active part in the town hall meetings of the Constitutional Commission,” he said.