The country’s Attorney General James Apaniai has raised a concern regarding certain in-experienced private legal practitioners.
Speaking at the 2016 legal opening year, Mr Apaniai said this issue is a matter of concern to the public which should be of great concern to the Bar Association.
“While acknowledging that the majority of private legal practitioners are undoubtedly competent and do their job professionally, with respect, there are some whose performances fall short of the expected standards.
“As Attorney General, it is my duty to raise these concerns and I believe that today is an appropriate occasion to raise the issue on behalf of the public.
“It seems to me that there are certain legal practitioners who are not experienced enough to go into private practice on their own.”
Mr Apaniai said they have never worked under the supervision of any experienced lawyer and have not worked long enough in any law firm or legal department so as to gain the experience necessary to enable them work on their own or to enable them guide their associates or other legal practitioners who enter into employment with their law firms.
He said not only do these lawyers provide substandard services to their clients, but in some cases, their conduct is also a matter of great concern.
“For instance, they take instructions from clients at odd places such as beaches surrounded by cans of beer; they ask clients for fees anytime they like without issuing invoices or Bills of Costs, and many times when drunk; they become unreachable, unavailable and invisible after having received Deposits, etc, from clients.
“Fortunately for them, the disciplinary machinery is not, and has never been, as effective as it should be.
“However, a new Legal Professional Bill is now in the drafting stage which, if passed into law, will severely deal with such behaviour.”
Mr Apaniai further added that but while this Bill is still in its preliminary drafting stage, he would call on the Bar Association to be more vigilant in keeping an eye for those who behave in such manner and take appropriate measure to combat such behaviour.
In addition to his remarks, Mr Apaniai also raise an issue in regards to making justice more accessible and cheap for the ordinary Solomon Islander.
“No one will dispute that Justice is now becoming expensive and too expensive for the ordinary person on the streets.
“These people could not afford to engage private lawyers.
“I note that the office of the Public Solicitor’s Office has the constitutional obligation to assist such people.
“I would encourage the Public Solicitor’s Office to establish a vibrant and aggressive civil litigation division in his office, if he has not yet done so.”
He said if it is necessary for the Public Solicitor’s Office to engage private lawyers to represent any of their clients (on payment of reasonable fee), then that is an option that should be explored.
“We should strive to ‘leave no one behind’ in regards to accessibility to justice.”
Mr Apaniai said 2016 must not be a year of ‘Business as usual’. It is a year in which we must make a difference and provide tangible justice to the people who come to court seeking justice.
Meanwhile also speaking at the 2016 legal year, the president of the Solomon Islands Bar Association, Whitlam K Togamae said the recent years have seen spring of law firms being established by legal practitioners.
“This offers a variety of services and on rates commensurating the level of incomes of our society laws.
“Clients may go for wide spectrum of choices on differing law firms.
“There is however a catch.”
Mr Togamae said a catch that brings the profession into disrepute and must be stopped.
“I asked the Registrar of High Court that all law firms must have a physical office and address.
“Not only that, but maybe how to access and use email and respond their clients and other members of the bar.
“I must reiterate to my colleague practitioners to not charge high fees from your clients if you know that you do not have an office where you client’s will come to see you.”
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN