MLA proposes articles at LA for law students
(CNS): The government is considering establishing an internship programme at the Legislative Assembly that can equate to articles for graduates of the Cayman Law School’s professional practice course and at the same time fill the need at the country’s parliament for professional researchers. Government offered its support to the idea, which was brought as a private member’s motion filed by backbench UDP member Dwayne Seymour. However, the opposition leader warned that it would be unlikely that the House could offer students the rigours required of articles that would be enough to secure them work in the community.
The Bodden Town member who brought the motion said there were many students who were facing difficulties finding a place as an article clerk and the LA could provide a new option where the students could work as researchers and library assistants.
He said some law students had been looking for several years for articles and the LA could be a way of building credit. Seymour called on the Legal Advisory Council to develop a programme that would meet the requirements of the practical experience that law students need to undertake before they can qualify. While Seymour said it wasn’t the full solution to the problem, he thought it might help some students.
Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin, who is himself a lawyer, said the problem of graduates from the law school not being able to get articles was a long standing one. He said that the standard of those who have come through the local law school was high yet but even with more than five hundred lawyers practicing in the jurisdiction, where partners earned millions of dollars every year, local students still could not find a place as the law firms claim they cannot afford article programmes.
“I am hearing there is a move afoot to abolish the article programme altogether on the basis that it is too expensive and resistance on the part of a number of firms to allow students to pursue articles,” he said, noting that this was of great concern.
He said that the LA might not be able to offer a solution for students, noting the variety of legal experience that articles were supposed to offer. Giving an anecdotal example, he said one of his constituents had completed her articles in the government’s own legal department but had been told she had to do them again when she joined a private firm as she simply had not gained enough experience.
Although they might provide a much needed service for the members of the Legislative Assembly, he described the credit that graduates were likely to gain from working there was so “infinitesimal” that it would count for nought within the local law firms. Nevertheless, McLaughlin said he would support the motion, even though it was unlikely that many local firms would recognise the time spent as a researcher in the LA.
“I don’t want to create the impression that somehow this is really going to assist those that are trying to get qualified as lawyers,” he said. “Experienced gained in the House is unlikely to be given much weight in the private sector.”
He said that what needed to be addressed was why the rich firms here were still able to say they cannot afford to take people on to do articles. McLaughlin said he believed the firms in Cayman were under an obligation to give local students an opportunity to qualify and it was ridiculous that they claimed they could not afford to do it. Ggovernment should make them do it, he added.
The premier confirmed that government was going to accept the motion and said there was no risk that standards would be undermined as the goal was to offer credit towards articles and there would be no diluting of the issue when it came to the standards of training for lawyers.
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