Debate on a Bill, which seeks to enhance the conduct of attorneys-at-law, and the quality of service they provide, was tabled on Friday (June 8) in the Senate.
Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, who opened the debate, said the Bill contains provisions empowering the General Legal Council to take specified actions to protect money, property or documents of an attorney’s client.
“This Bill will amend the Legal Profession Act to among other things modernise the profession, address issues regarding the maintenance of client trust account and records, to ensure that members of the profession continue to update themselves on legal developments in an organised manner and allow intervention into an attorney’s practice to protect the interest of clients in situations which warrant such protection,” he said.
According to the Memorandum of Objects and Reasons, the Bill requires institutions holding funds for an attorney’s client to pay over such funds to the Council to be deposited in a special account for the benefit of the client.
It also empowers the Council to obtain a Court Order to require the redirection of postal articles (originally destined for an attorney’s address) to an address provided by the Council; and to administer a compensation fund from which grants may be made to compensate, on an ex gratia basis, the loss of client property.
There are also provisions for the maintenance of client trust accounts at licensed financial institutions and building societies, in addition to banks; and to empower the Council to make regulations requiring attorneys to furnish accountant’s reports and institute a programme of continuing legal professional development for attorneys; and empower the Minister to amend, by order published in the Gazette and subject to affirmative resolution, the penalties set out in the Act, upon the recommendation of the General Legal Council.
The proposed legislation builds on previous amendments to the Act which, among other things, enlarged and clarified the jurisdiction of the Council’s Disciplinary Committee.
Senator Golding also stated that it was “deemed necessary to introduce these amendments through legislation so as to empower the General Legal Council to more effectively monitor the practise of law in Jamaica and preserve and protect the rights of clients, who interact with the members of the profession."
Debate on the Bill was suspended so as to allow for contributions from other members of the Senate and to also allow the Jamaica Bar Association of Jamaica to review the contents of the Bill.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter