Doing Legal Business in the Commonwealth Caribbean

The Commonwealth Caribbean is made up of the English-speaking Caribbean countries that share a history of being administered by Britain and gaining political independence from it.

The region is made up of both British Overseas Territories and Independent States.

The legal systems of the English-speaking Caribbean islands are essentially derived from English common law, with some modifications introduced by local legislation in recent decades.

Practicing in the Commonwealth Caribbean

There is no “foreign legal consultant” status in the Commonwealth Caribbean.

However, lawyers can act as paralegals if they are not qualified in the respective jurisdiction.

Since many Caribbean islands have their own constitutions and case law, lawyers should be called to their local bar.

There are no temporary practices or “fly-in fly-out” arrangements in Commonwealth Caribbean jurisdictions. However, there are provisions in each Legal Profession Act (LPA) for temporary licenses.

It is not uncommon for English QCs to take on Caribbean cases (such as death row appeals), many of which are heard by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.

Lawyers from England and Wales can practice local law (as barristers) in certain Caribbean jurisdictions such as Saint Lucia and the British Virgin Islands.

However, this is dependent on admission to the local bar and after at least five years of practice in the UK (in the absence of a valid legal training certificate).

For more information, contact the local bar association concerned.

Subject to the relevant provisions of each island’s Legal Profession Act, lawyers may enter into partnerships and employ local lawyers.

Local attorneys may also employ attorneys.

The profession of lawyer

The legal profession in the Caribbean is generally “merged”, with no distinction between barrister and barrister, except in some Caribbean states which allow admission as a barrister only.

In practice, oversight or regulation affecting the legal profession in the Commonwealth Caribbean is limited.

Most Caribbean islands have – or are in the process of adopting – a legal profession law which governs, among other things, the admission of lawyers.

Continuing legal professional development, management of bar councils and discipline/ethics among practitioners are also covered by law.

Regulation and representation

Each jurisdiction has its own national bar to represent the profession and, in some cases, play a regulatory role.

Admission to the bar, complaints, discipline, and continuing legal education are determined nationally by the bar association or government agency.

There are two regional bars covering jurisdictions based on English common law.

The Organization of Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Associations (OCCBA) covers:

  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Belize
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Grenade
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Montserrat
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • St. LUCIA
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Dominica
  • Cayman Islands

The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Bar Association covers:

  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Dominica
  • Grenade
  • Montserrat
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • St. LUCIA
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • the british virgin islands

The judicial system and the courts

English common law forms the basis of legal systems in:

  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamian
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Dominica
  • Grenade
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Montserrat
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • St. LUCIA
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Turks and Caicos Islands

Some Caribbean jurisdictions use civil law based on French, Dutch and Spanish codes.

The Privy Council of the United Kingdom remains the last court of appeal in many cases, although some Commonwealth Caribbean states have decided to recognize the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) instead. This includes Barbados, Belize, Guyana and Dominica.

The CCJ acts as the court of first instance for Caribbean Community (CARICOM) disputes.

The court system continues primarily to reflect English practice and heritage, with familiar customs and modes of address for a hierarchy of courts modeled on English antecedents, and broadly similar rules of procedure for criminal and civil practice.

Legal concepts in the Caribbean can sometimes differ from English practice in that each island has a written constitution which is considered supreme.

European Union case law is also compelling in the Caribbean, especially since the fundamental rights and obligations enshrined in the various constitutions are generally based on, and in most cases identical to, the European Convention on Human Rights. rights, which was enshrined in the UK Human Rights Act 1998.

How to qualify as a lawyer

Professional legal education in the Caribbean is coordinated by the Legal Education Council, created by the Treaty of Chaguaramas.

This treaty, signed on July 4, 1973 in Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago, also established the Caribbean Community and Common Market, later known as CARICOM.

The council has the following institutions located in three countries of the region:

  • Norman Manley School of Law, Jamaica
  • Eugene Dupuch Law School, Bahamas
  • Hugh Wooding School of Law, Trinidad

Each institution offers its students a six-month and two-year program.

Upon successful completion of the program, students receive a Legal Education Certificate (LEC).

The topics covered by the six-month course are traditionally those covered by the LLB undergraduate program and the Legal Practice Course (LPC):

  • practice of civil and criminal law
  • constitutional law
  • laws and legal systems
  • accounting and office law

After that, you must complete 10 weeks of continuing education at a local law firm, along with court report submissions.

Those beginning the two-year course will encounter a more intense period of study covering conveyancing, probate, family law, and advocacy.

Admission to practice is reserved for holders of the LEC. Obtaining the LEC gives its holder the right to practice throughout the Caribbean, and not just in a single jurisdiction.

In the English-speaking Caribbean, lawyers are generally referred to as “lawyers”.

Qualifying as a Foreign Lawyer in the Caribbean

If you are a qualified solicitor in England and Wales, you must take the six-month course.

Students taking the course are required to reside and study in the jurisdiction for the full six-month period, although the COVID-19 pandemic has forced institutions to deliver the course virtually.

As the course is designed for those professionally trained in the common law system, it is also possible to enroll in the course if you are admitted to the Bar of England and Wales, pupillage not being a necessary requirement.

Upon successful completion of the program, students receive a Legal Education Certificate (LEC).

After five years of practice in a common law jurisdiction, it is possible to be admitted to islands such as:

  • British Virgin Islands and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (as lawyers only)
  • Saint Lucia (as a lawyer with full right of audience)
  • Granada (as a lawyer)

The usual process for applying for admission is to complete a fixed date application form, swear an affidavit to confirm your identity and qualifications, and receive a supporting affidavit from a local attorney. This is followed by a hearing of your application for admission.

Requalification in England and Wales

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) replaced the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) in September 2021.

The SQE is open to applicants from all jurisdictions.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority will not require you to take preparatory courses before taking the SQE or to have a specific university degree.

Resources

Regional organizations

CARICOM

OCCBA

OECS

National organizations

Anguilla

Antigua – no national organization

The Bahamas

Barbados

Bermuda

Belize

British Virgin Islands

Grenada – no national organization

Guyana

Jamaica

Montserrat

Saint Kitts and Nevis

St. LUCIA

St Vincent and the Grenadines

Trinidad and Tobago

Dominica – no website

Cayman Islands

Turks and Caicos Islands

social media

Twitter: @LSInternational

LinkedIn: International Division of the Bar

Acknowledgments and acknowledgments

This document was compiled with the assistance of Simone Bowman of Bow Law Barristers Chambers and Darren J Sylvester of DJS Law Solicitors.

Our special thanks to them for their generous help.