The Canadian Government-funded, Improved Access to Justice in the Caribbean (IMPACT Justice), in collaboration with the Guyana Bar Association, held a meeting to sensitise attorneys-at-law in Belize about continuing legal professional development (CLPD). The meeting was held at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel, Belize City, on May 2, 2016.
The initiative is part of IMPACT Justice’s continued region-wide sensitisation programme on mandatory continuing legal professional development.
In her Welcome Address, Professor Velma Newton, Regional Project Director of IMPACT Justice noted that the project is one funded by the Canadian government and has the ultimate goal of improving access to justice for the benefit of men, women, youth and businesses in CARICOM Member States.
She outlined the project components as:
- the drafting of legislation for the economic and social development of the region;
- improving legal professionalism through enhanced codes of ethics, disciplinary procedures and the encouragement of bar associations to adopt continuing legal profession programmes for their members;
- improving and expanding databases of court decisions and legislation and articles published in the region which are available to lawyers and to any members of the public who want to do legal research;
- public legal education; and
- training in alternative dispute resolution which includes arbitration, mediation, restorative practices and community-based peace-building.
Delivering the feature presentation was Hon. Michael Hylton, O.J., Q.C., Chairman of the General Legal Council of Jamaica.
In his presentation; “Continuing Legal Professional Development: The Jamaica Model,” Hylton shared how the CLPD programme was implemented in Jamaica.
He said that Jamaica implemented mandatory CLPD in January of 2013, and that it is based on a system of credits where each attorney is required to attain a certain number of credits each year; adding that where more than is needed for a calendar year is attained, those credits can be carried forward.
Hylton said that the means through which an attorney can accumulate credits include, formal education—encompassing reading for a Masters or other continuing programmes, teaching or writing or other legal learning or practice-based work. He however noted that most attorneys get their credits from attending seminars. Hylton added that accreditation certificates are awarded at the end of the acquisition of the requisite credits and that attorneys who have not attained their credits receive periodic warnings to ensure compliance.
Although he termed the Jamaican model of CLPD a “huge success,” Hylton acknowledged that there is room for development in several areas which the Council will address. The session concluded with a “Question and Answer” segment and a Vote of Thanks delivered by the President of the Belize Bar Association, Ms. Priscilla Banner.