04 July 2022
The Chamber of Advocates refers to a statement issued by three student organizations and reported on the KSU Facebook page on 03 July 2022, concerning the current impasse with respect to the warrant examinations for graduates in law. Notwithstanding that one of those organizations is the Junior Chamber of Advocates, the Chamber clarifies that it was not consulted prior to the issuance of that statement.
The Chamber expresses its support to law graduates who have been waiting for so long to be able to sit for their warrant examinations, however it cannot subscribe to the shocking suggestion made by the three organizations that an amendment to the law that would change the Minister’s vires to simply promulgate those rules with which the Minister agrees whilst discarding those with which the Minister does not agree as the solution. It certainly is not the solution and the Chamber would object to any unnecessary changes to the law that would completely stultify the delicate checks and balances it has been trying to promote in this process and the regulation of the profession generally. Those rules or guidelines have been recommended by the Committee for Advocates and Legal procurators and, above all, approved by the Commission for the Administration of Justice, and it is only constructive dialogue and debate between mature people that can be the solution.
The Chamber acknowledges that the changes in the law that were originally promulgated, and which introduced the need for the guidelines on fitness and properness with respect to a law graduate being awarded the warrant for advocates, was the result of a haphazard change in the law which simply cherry-picked a number of proposals that had been made by the Chamber in what was presented to the previous Minister as a comprehensive self-standing bill. The inevitable conclusion is that today we have been burdened with a system which has so many gaps that it is rendered almost unmanageable.
This impasse is no doubt a cog in the wheel in the efficient award of warrants and the determination of fitness and properness. It is a delay in the whole process which could have been avoided but it now needs to be given the priority of all those involved in finding a proper solution. We should not be after shortcuts or quick wins without due and proper consideration of the consequences. The Chamber understands perfectly that the impasse needs to be ironed out and a solution found as soon as possible to avoid further hardship to the law graduates who would like to start practising the profession. The Chamber however disagrees with the proposed solution being proffered.
It is short sighted and merely takes the simplest way out without further consideration to the consequences. The existence of an impasse between the political class and the regulator of the profession should not be resolved by legislative intervention that will simply endow the Minister with the power to determine himself the rules that constitute fitness and properness of individuals who ae eligible to become advocates. This would do away with the delicate checks and balances which were designed in the system to ensure that the guidelines are a product primarily of the thinking of the profession itself and its regulator, not the political class, and that the latter should only intervene to veto the guidelines in the public interest. There is a delicate balance in that process that needs to be safeguarded – otherwise we would be making a mockery of the whole system and wherever in our legislative framework we design checks and balances intended to reach balanced and properly debated solutions – if they can simply be overridden by legislative intervention. It is deeply disappointing that law graduates, who indeed wish to become practising advocates, have taken the stance of the line of least resistance, simply because they happen to agree with the Minister’s viewpoint and motivated in no uncertain terms by the delay occasioned through this impasse. The Chamber asks, what would have been the situation had their viewpoint been in tandem with that of the Committee rather than the Minister? The Chamber cautions that this is not a matter of a short-term solution, and that the solution needs to be properly thought out and considered.
The powers that be must find a solution which is the product of an agreement between them. Mature people may disagree in full respect of the process and the systems in place, however they ought to understand that it is only through proper discussion and debate that a solution ought to be found, and not by showing who is the most powerful. What the law graduates and student organizations are instigating is a dangerous move. It might take longer than would be desirable – but the system and its institutions need to be respected, the checks and balances need to be honoured.
The Chamber has not been advised that any changes in the law are in the offing or are being discussed, and therefore considers that it is the student organizations concerned that are making this proposal to lobby the Minister to take that route. It would be the wrong route to take. In any event, the Chamber expects, even because this has been the experience with the previous Minister, that it is consulted on a matter that affects the whole profession, and entry to the profession, before any changes to the law are proposed. In this context the Chamber makes an appeal to the parties concerned to try to reach an agreement on the substance of the impasse that has been created through dialogue and discussion, not through a show of force.
The Chamber has already asked for a meeting with the Minister which it trusts will take place over the second week of July to understand better the substance of the impasse that has been created, and with a view to assisting all parties to come to a long-term solution without weakening the safeguards and protections built into the system.