British Virgin Islands Bar Association
The British Virgin Islands Bar Association (officially, the BVI Bar Association) is a voluntary membership organisation of members of the legal profession in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). It was founded in 1976, but residency requirements for members (and the fact that membership is entirely voluntary) mean that not all members of the British Virgin Islands legal profession are members. Most resident lawyers within the BVI do in fact join the BVI Bar Association, but it is relatively rare for non-resident lawyers to join (and most are not eligible to do so unless they hold Belonger status). The BVI Bar Association currently has no statutory functions and it is open to membership by both Barristers and Solicitors within the jurisdiction.
Although for historical reason the Association is referred to as the "Bar" Association, it is open to both barristers and solicitors. However the British Virgin Islands has a broadly fused profession, and in practice no internal distinction is made between members who are barristers and those who are solicitors.
Unlike most national bar associations, the BVI Bar Association does not represent all legal professionals within the jurisdiction. It is a voluntary organisation, and legal practitioners are not eligible to join until they have been resident in the Territory for at least one year (unless they hold Belonger status). This is designed to prevent flooding of the association by members of "transient" lawyers, who fly in, get admitted, and then leave the Territory and purport to practise British Virgin Islands law from overseas. From the perspective of the Association, this has created increasing problems as ever larger numbers of BVI qualified lawyers working for Offshore Magic Circle firms practise British Virgin Islands law from outside of the jurisdiction, meaning that the proportion of admitted BVI lawyers who are members of the BVI Bar Association has dwindled. Nonetheless, the Association is generally understood to speak for the profession as a whole within the jurisdiction, and frequently addresses the Territory's legislature on that basis.
Legal Professions Bill 2012
In July 2012 the British Virgin Islands legislature prepared a draft Legal Professions Bill which, if passed into law, would fundamentally recast the regulation of the profession within the jurisdiction. Key functions such as ethics, professional discipline, admission to practice and the validation of training institutions and pupillages would be delegated to a newly formed 7 person "Virgin Islands General Legal Council". The Bill will fuse the profession so that all persons who are admitted to practice law in the Territory shall be known as "legal practitioners". Under the Bill, legal practitioners will only be able to practice if they hold valid practising certificates.
The new admission criteria will treat British qualified lawyers less favourably than previously. This is principally because they will have to show that they have five years prior professional practice experience before they will be eligible to apply for admission in the BVI. The five year requirement shall be a three year requirement until 1 January 2016. This is a significant change as under current BVI law they may be admitted as of right as soon as they qualify in the United Kingdom. In contrast, applicants who have trained at the University of the West Indies and a West Indian regional law school will be admitted as of right even if they have never actually practised and without the need to serve pupillage.
Although the Bill received its first reading in the third quarter of 2012, it has not progressed since that time.
Legal Professions Bill 2006
In June 2006 the British Virgin Islands legislature prepared a draft Legal Profession Bill. Its provisions were much the same as the 2012 Bill described above. The Bill was perceived as controversial, partly because of the level of influence and control which the government would reserve to itself over the legal profession, and partly because the new admission criteria are perceived to discriminate against British educated lawyers. The controversy attached to the Bill was not lessened by the unusually short period (28 days) between the Bill being made available for public review, and its first reading by the legislature. Ultimately the bill was shelved because the controversy made it impossible to pass before the holding of the British Virgin Islands general election, 2007, which saw a change of government. The new government promised to review the position and present a new bill, although when presented the Legal Professions Bill 2012 was nearly identical to the 2006 bill.
BVI Bar Council
The Association is run by the Bar Council under the leadership of the President.
Executive of the BVI Bar Association
|President||Ms. Arabella di Iorio||Maples and Calder|
|1st Vice President||Ms. Willa Tavernier||O'Neal Webster|
|2nd Vice President||Ms. Jacqueline Daley-Aspinall||Harneys|
|Treasurer||Ms. Jude Hanley||Ogier|
|Secretary||Ms. Tanya Scantlebury||Price Demers & Co|
A total of twelve persons have served as President of the BVI Bar Association, of whom seven have been men and five have been women (including the last four, and five out of the most recent six). Five of the twelve Presidents were Queen's counsel, and the remaining Presidents were from the outer bar.
|Mr. Lionel Barker||1976-1982|
|Mr. McWelling Todman, CBE, QC||1982-1986|
|Dr. Joseph S. Archibald, QC||1986-1994|
|Mr. Colin T.S. O'Neal||1994-1996|
|Mr. Michael Riegels, QC||1996-1999|
|Mr. Paul Webster, QC||1999-2001|
|Mrs. Hélène-Anne Lewis||2001-2003|
|Mr. Paul Dennis, QC||2003-2006|
|Mrs. Lisa Penn-Lettsome||2006-2008|
|Mrs. Tana'ania Small-Davis||2008-2010|
|Ms. Keisha M. Durham||2010-2013|
|Miss Arabella di Lorio||2013–present|
- Constitution of the BVI Bar Association
- Barristers are entitled to practise as solicitors in the British Virgin Islands, although the converse is not true - solicitors do not enjoy rights of audience to appear in open court.
- Section 13(1), Legal Profession Bill, 2012
- Section 15(1), Legal Profession Bill, 2012.
- Section 11, Legal Profession Bill, 2012
- Section 11(5), Legal Profession Bill, 2012
- Section 11, Legal Profession Bill, 2012
- Under the Bill, applicants who have trained at the University of the West Indies and a West Indian regional law school are admitted as of right even if they have never actually practised and without the need to serve pupillage, but applicants who have qualified as barristers or solicitors in the United Kingdom need to practise for 5 years before being eligible for admission (under current BVI law they may be admitted as of right as soon as they qualify in the United Kingdom).
- Mr. Paul Dennis was appointed as leading counsel after his time as President.