Bar association head welcomes opening for new senior counsel

Head of the Guyana Bar Association, Ronald Burch-Smith says that having attorneys apply to the Office of the Chancellor of the Judiciary to be elevated to Senior Counsel is long overdue and welcomed.

He told Stabroek News yesterday that there was no reason for such appointments not to be made every four or five years pointing out that there was no law governing the appointments and how they should be administered in Guyana. Burch-Smith said that for comparison purposes the Law Society of England and Wales appointed Queen’s Counsel on a percentage basis, ensuring that a standard percentage is always taken from those eligible to hold the post.

Burch-Smith stated that “it is a very important appointment and a mark of recognition for excellent work,” adding that based on skills, there would have been a substantial amount of persons who would be deserving of the appointment since the last elevations in 1996.

He said that the Bar Association has not been contacted as yet by the Office of the Chancellor to participate in the selection process, however “if we were invited we would participate, but we would not give unsolicited information.”

He told Stabroek News that in Guyana the application and selection process is not as formal as in other parts of the world. Stabroek News asked about a review panel and how the selection process would be handled, Burch-Smith stated that the process is yet to be seen and it may be the Office of the Chancellor alone that decides upon the appointments.

Burch-Smith stated that the way in which the Office of the Chancellor chose to advertise was necessary although many may find advertising for applicants crass. He said that in the changing world this was how things were done and that he welcomed the notice in the newspapers inviting applicants. Burch-Smith told Stabroek News that appointment of senior counsel did not need to be done in an old fashioned way and that this may be how they need to be advertised in the future to ensure that the appointments occurred on a regular basis.

“One doesn’t need to be old and doddering…the fact that there are young and skilled, qualified members shows this is important,” Burch-Smith said, adding that former President Desmond Hoyte was appointed Senior Counsel after only 11 years.

Burch-Smith told Stabroek News that because the appointment process was not as formal in Guyana and since the last elevations were done over 18 years ago, the method would need to be revealed.

The Office of the Chancellor of the Judiciary is inviting attorneys-at-law desirous of being elevated to Senior Counsel to apply.

The last conferrals would have been in 1996 when former Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran, Richard Fields, former Attorney General Charles Ramson, acting Chief Justice Ian Chang, Moen McDoom and the late Samuel Brotherson were elevated.

The notice outlined the criteria which are: over 15 years of service; expert up-to-date legal knowledge with a record of accurate and relevant application of such knowledge; a record of written and oral advocacy; a reputation for appropriate deportment, decorum and interpersonal relationships with professional colleagues befitting that of a member of the inner Bar; and a reputation for honesty and integrity particularly with respect to professional dealings with the court, with clients and all other parties. Applicants have up to May 30 to submit proposals to the Office of the Chancellor, Court of Appeal, 60 High Street, Kingston.

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