Antoine: TT's lawyer fees highest in Caribbean

In her fea­ture ad­dress cen­tred around ju­di­cial re­form dur­ing the church ser­vice for the cer­e­mo­ni­al open­ing of the 2019-2020 Law Term, dean of the law fac­ul­ty at the Uni­ver­si­ty of the West In­dies (UWI) Prof. Rose-Marie Belle An­toine said that, in her opin­ion, lawyer fees in the coun­try "are too high".

An­toine al­so re­vealed that the lawyer fees in TT are some of the high­est in the Caribbean re­gion.

 

"I won­der if this is part­ly be­cause, al­though there has been a fused pro­fes­sion for over three decades, we are still cling­ing on to the di­vi­sion- in­struct­ing at­tor­neys and so on- re­sult­ing in two sets of fees, which may not be the case any­where else in the re­gion," she said.

She ex­plained that there were or­di­nary cit­i­zens out there who al­so have the right to be heard and to ob­tain jus­tice "based on the mer­it of their cas­es" but are pre­vent­ed from do­ing so "sim­ply be­cause it is too ex­pen­sive".

"We all think that we de­serve high fees and high sta­tus be­cause af­ter all, we stud­ied hard, we de­serve it. How­ev­er, our abil­i­ty to de­mand such an el­e­vat­ed place in so­ci­ety came at a so­cial cost."

She ex­plained that aside from in­di­vid­ual lawyers' hard work there were oth­er fac­tors such as stu­dent loans, GATE, and col­lec­tive de­ci­sions by the state which con­tributed to their le­gal ed­u­ca­tion.

 

Al­so speak­ing to the many de­fi­cien­cies with­in the coun­try's ju­di­cial sys­tem, she said that, along with some of the laws, "re­mains alien­at­ing and in­ac­ces­si­ble” which con­tributes to a pub­lic per­cep­tion that they are bi­ased to­wards those in so­ci­ety who are so­cio-eco­nom­i­cal­ly bet­ter off.

She al­so it­er­at­ed that ref­or­ma­tion was need­ed with­in the mag­is­tra­cy and it was “time to bring the mag­is­tra­cy sys­tems in­to the 21st cen­tu­ry”.

Ear­li­er this month, the Ju­di­cia­ry pre­sent­ed an Elec­tron­ic Court Man­age­ment Suite to a group of stake­hold­ers called TT.jim. An­toine said this would make strides to­wards im­prov­ing the ef­fi­cien­cy with­in their sys­tems and pro­ce­dures.

How­ev­er, she cau­tioned that any ben­e­fits de­rived from the new tech­no­log­i­cal sys­tems would be negat­ed if prac­tices such as un­nec­es­sary ad­journ­ments and ac­cept­ing too many cas­es are con­tin­ued.

Reporter: Rishard Khan

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