BVI Bar Association

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BVI Bar Association
GB Virgin Islands.png
Abbreviation BVIBA
Formation 1976
Type Unincorporated association
Legal status Active
Purpose Professional association
Region served
British Virgin Islands
Official language
English
President
Jacqueline Daley-Aspinall

The BVI Bar Association is a voluntary membership organisation for members of the legal profession in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).[1] The Association was founded on 8 May 1976. Of the eight founder members,[2] half would go on to serve as President at some point. 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.

Name[edit]

Although for historical reason the Association is referred to as the "Bar" Association, it has always been open to both barristers and solicitors. However, since 2015 the British Virgin Islands has had a fused profession, and all lawyers within the jurisdiction are now formally referred to as "legal practitioners".

In early drafts of the Legal Professions Act, 2015 the BVI Bar Association is referred to (incorrectly) as the "Virgin Islands Bar Association". The Government of the British Virgin Islands is keen to promote the use of the Territory's official name of the Virgin Islands (without the prefix "British") in all official documents and publications,[3] and the error probably arose as a result of this process. Happily the error was corrected at the very final committee stage before the third reading of the Bill.

Admission[edit]

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 Profession Act, 2015[edit]

In March 2015 the British Virgin Islands legislature passed the Legal Profession Act, 2015.[4] It was brought into force on 11 November 2015, but certain provisions relating to admission of English qualified lawyers and practice overseas were excluded from the proclamation bringing it into force. The new Act 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 "Virgin Islands General Legal Council". The Act will fuse the profession so that all persons who are admitted to practice law in the Territory shall be known as "legal practitioners".[5] Under the Act, legal practitioners will only be able to practice if they hold valid practising certificates.[6]

Three seats on the General Legal Council are reserved for the BVI Bar Association. One is taken by the President, and the other two are taken by persons nominated by the Association. Each of the nominees must be at least five years' call, and one of them must be a Belonger.

The new admission criteria will treat British qualified lawyers less favourably than previously in two key respects. Firstly British qualified lawyers would only be eligible for admission if they hold full rights of audience before the British courts.[7] Secondly, they would not be eligible for admission until they have five years prior professional practice experience.[8] 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 are eligible to be admitted even if they have never practised.[9]

The Bill was finally passed after being introduced for the third time in 2015, after having previously been introduced and failing to proceed in 2007 and 2012. After finally being passed, it was brought into force eight months later.

BVI Bar Council[edit]

The Association is run by the Bar Council under the leadership of the President.

Executive of the BVI Bar Association[edit]

The current Executive were elected on 15 September 2015 for a one year term.[10]

Council of the BVI Bar Association (2015/2016)
Title Names Firm
President Ms. Jacqueline Daley-Aspinall Harneys
1st Vice President Ms. Jude Hanley Mourant Ozannes
2nd Vice President Ms. Kimberly Crabbe-Adams Harneys
Treasurer Mr. Andrew Emery
Secretary Ms. Rhonda Brown ATU

Past Presidents[edit]

A total of thirteen persons have served as President of the BVI Bar Association, of whom seven have been men and six have been women (including the last five, and six out of the most recent seven). Five of the thirteen Presidents were Queen's counsel,[11] and the remaining Presidents were from the outer bar. The longest serving President to date has been J.S. Archibald, who served a total of eight years as President. Presidents are elected annually, but no past President has ever served less than two consecutive terms. No person has ever served non-consecutive terms as President.

Presidents of the BVI Bar Association
No. Names Dates
1. Mr. Lionel Barker 1976-1982
2. Mr. McWelling Todman, CBE, QC 1982-1986
3. Dr. Joseph S. Archibald, QC 1986-1994
4. Mr. Colin T.S. O'Neal 1994-1996
5. Mr. Michael Riegels, QC 1996-1999
6. Mr. Paul Webster, QC 1999-2001
7. Mrs. Hélène-Anne Lewis 2001-2003
8. Mr. Paul Dennis, QC 2003-2006
9. Mrs. Lisa Penn-Lettsome 2006-2008
10. Mrs. Tana'ania Small-Davis 2008-2010
11. Ms. Keisha M. Durham 2010-2013
12. Miss Arabella di Iorio 2013–2015
13. Ms. Jacqueline Daley-Aspinall 2015 - Present

External links[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Constitution of the BVI Bar Association
  2. ^ On the constitution the founder members are listed as: L.W. Barker, McW. Todman, J.S. Archibald, J. Smith-Hughes, E.A.C. Hewlett, N.C. Westwood, M. Riegels and L. Stevens.
  3. ^ "Report of Virgin Islands Constitutional Commissioners 2005" (PDF). Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  4. ^ "Finally – Bill passed to regulate lawyers". BVI News. 26 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Section 13(1), Legal Profession Act, 2015.
  6. ^ Section 15(1), Legal Profession Act, 2015.
  7. ^ Section 11(6), Legal Professions Act, 2015.
  8. ^ Section 11(1)(a), Legal Profession Act, 2015. Until 1 January 2019 there will be a transitional period when the period is reduced to three years.
  9. ^ Section 11(b), Legal Profession Act, 2015.
  10. ^ "Jacqueline Daley Is New Bar Association President". BVI Platinum. 20 September 2015. 
  11. ^ Mr. Paul Dennis was appointed as leading counsel after his time as President.