law

READY FOR THE NEW TERM: Chatting following Monday's ceremonial opening of the 2019/2020 law term are, from left to right, Israel Khan SC, Attorney General Faris Al Rawi, Reginald Armour SC, Seenath Jairam SC and Douglas Mendes SC, the president of the Law Association.

The Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) has come out in defence of attorneys following criticism about high legal fees, saying many attorneys charge well below the stipulated guidelines and are themselves struggling to survive.

Dean of The UWI Faculty of Law Prof Rose-Marie Belle ­Antoine had raised the issue during her address at the opening of the 2019/2020 law term on ­Monday.

She said fees charged by local attorneys were the highest in the Caribbean, and many ordinary citi­zens were unable to access legal representation because they ­cannot afford it.

Senior counsel and other attorneys on Tuesday defended the fees charged, saying it would depend on the research needed, experience of the lawyer involved and the intensity of the work ­required.

In a response yesterday, the Law Association said it does not support the charging of exorbitant fees by any attorney to any ­unwilling client, adding many attorneys charge low rates and take on matters pro bono or volunteer their time through legal clinics and other forms of outreach.

LATT said the fees attorneys charge should not be judged by the “highly publicised accounts of fees paid by the State”.

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“The vast preponderance of ­attorneys are not fortunate enough to receive State briefs. Indeed, the vast majority of attorneys are themselves struggling to make ends meet in a profession which is now greatly oversubscribed.

“We are not aware of any ­comparative regional or even ­national study of the fees which ­attorneys charge which may have informed Prof Antoine’s opinion that local fees are higher than our counterparts elsewhere in the ­region,” LATT said.

Code of Ethics

LATT, however, acknowledged there are attorneys who overcharge their clients, but said it is unfair to taint the many honest, hard-working and devoted ones with “unsubstantiated, generalised and publicity catching statements”.

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