Tales From The Courts – Exposing ‘Teefing’ and Incompetent Lawyers

Sir Henry De B. Forde, K.A. Q.C. – Barbados’ best known counsel

In the last two instalments of Tales From The Courts, BU ventilated an aspect of land law that had the possible potential to cause problems for vendors and purchasers alike. This arose because of an Order given by Miss Kentish of the Barbados High Court. BU’s position evoked much argument from both sides of the issue.

Some well known counsel said that the Order was correct. Some, including it is reported, the a party to a sale and purchase and their counsel, held that the Order was a nullity and therefore refused to proceed with the purchase. It is not the intention of BU to go into the relative merits of this argument. We leave that to the lawyers to discuss among themselves.

What BU will do, however, is to fulfil its function, which is to serve the general Bajan public by pointing out the dilemma facing it. The fact that there are clearly two schools of legal thought within the legal fraternity on this issue of law, means that ultimately one is wrong and the other right. Therefore, it is clearly best for members of the general public, vendors and purchasers of land alike, to err on the side of caution. And it is clearly best for their counsel to be responsible enough to encourage them to do so.

It then follows that Miss Kentish and her cohorts ought also to err on the side of caution when giving orders that may well be overturned on appeal; or will cause counsel to advise their clients to withdraw from land transactions because they do not agree with the Order and consider it to be a nullity. What would it take to name the parties? A little more time? A bit more expense?

To ignore the fact that land transactions are placed at risk because many senior members of the Bar consider such an Order to be a nullity, is to display an arrogance and disregard for the well-being of society that the justice system is sworn and supposed to protect and SERVE.

However, as we all know, the Barbados legal system serves only those working within it. It hides and excuses their incompetence; it ignores their breaches of the Constitution that they are sworn to uphold; it provides them with salaries and other benefits and perquisites; it feeds their unbounded egos; it shuts its eyes to their discourtesies to the people who pay its salaries; and at the end of the day, it dispatches them all into honourable and well supported retirement as a reward for doing SFA. And all at the taxpayers’ expense.

We had hoped that the new Chief Justice would ring in the changes. But after a year in office, all he has done is talk A LOT, expose the system to a lawyer’s strike and likely will see himself sued under the Administration of Justice Act – and we DO mean LIKELY and BU will carry full reports of that if and WHEN it happens. Oh, and he has handed down a single judgement with a few others awaited the delay in which, in slavish imitation of those working under him, breaches the Constitution.

But let us also look at the situation with lawyers.

It is reported that Mr Andrew Pilgrim has said that there are some 800 lawyers in Barbados. Therefore, this begs a question. When a member of the general public goes to choose a lawyer, on what basis do they do this and what information is made available to them to assist with their choice of the right lawyer?

A Bajan resident in Barbados will almost always depend on nepotism or rumour or recommendation. A Bajan or someone of Bajan descent resident outside of Barbados will likely be inundated with recommendations from friends and family in Barbados. A foreigner will probably go to their counsel in their country of residence, who will in turn ask a few questions the answers to which are likely based on having met a lawyer from Barbados, so to go to him/her – “seems like a nice person.”

But what does the Bajan resident in Barbados, the Bajan or descendant resident abroad and advisers, or the foreigner, actually know about the qualifications, work experience, areas of experience and expertise and SUCCESS RATE of these Bajan lawyers?

The answer is “LITTLE OR NOTHING”.

You may then ask if it is different in the UK, the USA and Canada? The answer is YES IT CERTAINLY IS.

For example BU understands that Ontario’s (indeed Canada’s) leading counsel is, we are told, Paul B Schabas who practices at the firm of Blakes. Google his name and what you get as the first three hits on Google are:

Now, Google Barbados’ best known counsel, “Sir Henry Forde QC Barbados. What do you get?

We add one more for good measure: http://clarkes.com.bb/ . Finally, we get an idea of what Sir Henry’s practice actually is, thanks to one of the only law firms in Barbados that has a website of the sort one would expect in other jurisdictions. But, to get to this information, one must know that Sir Henry is a consultant of Clarke Gittens and Farmer.

Indeed, when you Google Sir Henry’s name, you do certainly get the impression that he is very important indeed. But it says NOTHING of his areas of expertise (unless you happen along Clarke Gittens and Farmer), but this says noting of his experience or SUCCESS as a lawyer, it merely lists his practice areas. BU freely admits that Sir Henry is a preeminent counsel (with excellent reason). Indeed, Sir Henry is a bad example for BU to have used, as he is one of the few lawyers in Barbados who could be excused for not providing his CV. But you get our point.

It is all a question of perception, or smoke and mirrors, in the legal profession. BU has stated its intention to completely demystify this as a public service. To break the mirrors and disperse the smoke. So let us address the perception.

There are 800 lawyers in Barbados, an alarming number of whom have been reduced to teefing clients’ money and other illegalities which, if they were not lawyers, would see them in jail. There are many reasons for these practices, one of which is that there are more lawyers than employment – and no lawyer would possibly consider doing what the rest of us have to do and supplementing their income by seeking additional employment, like pumping gas or stocking supermarket shelves. These under-employed will, of course, readily accept positions teaching law and BU does not necessarily (or at all) subscribe to the principal that, “Those who can, do and those who can’t, teach.” BU accepts that it takes time and experience and REPUTATION to build a practice.

Therefore, TODAY, lawyers need to attract business. That places them in the position of supplicants or employees.

If any member of the public applies for a job, they must provide a CV or resume of their education and experience. Therefore, it behoves people to demand a CV from those whom they wish to employ as lawyers. It behoves lawyers to provide CV/resume when trying to secure work. Just so the client knows and is comfortable that they have the requisite knowledge and experience to do the job. And we want it in writing so that it forms a basis for dismissal (or fraud) if the CV or resume is not true. In any case, as the rest of the world moves towards far greater transparency, why should the legal profession of Barbados not follow?

There is a famous Victorian cartoon that depicts a poor, shabbily dressed litigant and her starving child coming out of court in a state of great distress, accompanied by her rich, prosperous and extremely well-dressed lawyer. The caption reads something to the effect, “Stop blubbing, woman. You may have lost, but you have had the great honour of hearing ME plead your case.”

It would seem that in Barbados’ legal and judicial system, Victoriana is well and thriving. It is time we all stood up and

24 comments

  • David I am surprised that you would write a definitive statement like this.

    ” BU understands that Ontario’s (indeed Canada’s) leading counsel is,”

    Lawyers in Canada specialize in various disciplines of Law and there are many other “leading” lawyerS across the country.

    But I get your point.

    Barbados Lawyers have a serious image problem.

    More of their incompetence and fraudulent dealings will be exposed on the internet on blogs.

    It is time the honest lawyers in Barbados stand up and expose the crooks.
    It is also important that they actively engage in a campaign to modernise the legal system.

    How can it take years to solve a legal issue like getting title to a property or distributing the assets of an estate.

    Given that they are members of an “association” they are collectively responsible for the malaise in the Legal system.
    It is not acceptable to rake in millions in legal fees while letting client’s work drag out for years.

    Do the telephones in Lawyer’s offices work? They seem to have an aversion to communicating with each other.

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  • Why are you skeptical? Did you follow the links?

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  • On another matter what is the status of the Suleman Esuf case?

    The Fear Of A Lawless Society
    Posted on October 16, 2010 by David | 25 Comments | Edit

    Suleman Esuf
    On Thursday October 14, 2010 Suleman Esuf was granted bail of 1 million dollars with two sureties of $500,000.00 in the Bridgetown Traffic Court. We recall Esuf was charged with having a traffickable quantity of cannabis stated as 2778.38 pounds with a street value of 11 million dollars.  It should come as no surprise that Esuf was granted bail. In our system of jurisprudence a person is considered innocent until proven guilty. In a case which does not involve rape or murder and if you have the money for the best lawyers little time is spent on remand. In this case Esuf had a cooling-off at Dodds prison for one month. He returns to court March 8, 2011.
    http://bajan.wordpress.com/2010/10/16/the-fear-of-a-lawless-society/

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  • @Hants. I read the links and one of them certainly does identify Mr Schabas as being,without doubt, the leading litigation lawyer in Canada. I have certainly heard of him as the top man in the civil litigation field there, the man to whom all others defer. And, I believe that it is fair to state that the public perception is that Sir Henry is his opposite number in Barbados, ever since the death of Sir Harold. So, the basis is well founded.

    I also agree that if you listen to lawyers here, even those recently called, you would think, from the talk, that each and every one of them is a top person, when the truth is usually quite other. When I was very young and just out of uni, in my first employment my boss told me to simply forget everything I had learned about my field and concentrate on learning how it should be done in practical terms. I was amazed at how much nonsense I had learned that had no practical application or value at all. In one week, I descended from the dizzy heights of thinking of myself as brilliant and God’s gift to the profession, to realising that in practical terms, I was a toddler and, like a toddler, had to start from scratch.

    So, yes, there is a great need for lawyers to actually set out their CVs giving very full details. I’m afraid “LLB (Hons)” etc., doesn’t work for me – it doesn’t inspire in me any confidence whatsoever. Some of the biggest idiots and legal incompetents I have ever met have LLB (Hons) after their names.

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  • It is from this shoddy environment that the following is drawn …

    Freundal Stuart
    Wilfred Abrahams
    Santia Bradshaw
    Kenneth Best
    Desmond Sands
    Verla De Peiza
    Mia Mottley
    Ronald Toppin
    Francis Depeiza
    Stephen Lashley
    Edmund Hinkson
    Arthur Holder
    Michael Lashley
    Adriel Brathwaite
    Gregory Nicholls
    Kerri Symmonds
    Lynette Eastmond
    George Payne
    Dale Marshall
    Michael Carrington

    See the problem ..?

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  • What the heck. A most worrisome exposure.

    Touche’

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  • @David

    Where do you get your information about Schabas being Ontario’s leading counsel? The alacrity with which “Amused” rushes to defend your choice makes one suspect but that is neither here nor there. There are horses for courses and to describe someone as “leading” in a particular field with several branches invites much scrutiny.

    Who is Barbados’ “leading” Doctor? If I have a coronary problem should I see an orthopedic surgeon? Certainly when we apply the concept of “leading” or “best” we saw the sorry spectacle of a physician best known for one specialty being the spokesman for the late PM when he was being treated for colon cancer.

    In any event if I was before the Courts on a criminal matter in Ontario I would certainly welcome any of James Lockyer; Brian or Eddie Greenspan who can be considered “leading” lawyers in that speciality.

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  • @Sargeant

    Let us accept that you re correct, how does it change the argument?

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  • @Sargeant,

    All the BajanCanadians I have met in recent years complain about the tiefin Lawyers in Barbados and some have even decided to keep their two pennies up here.

    David and Amused can be pleased that they are correct about the “greatest Canadian Lawyer” but we BajanCanadians are only concerned about the thieves in Barbados who will make a concerted effort to deprive us of our money and property.

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  • @Hants

    This is the point of the blog. We need to make the business of the track records/CV of local lawyers more transparent.

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  • @Sargeant. I don’t know what your problem is, except that maybe you failed to read the links in the article, one of which contains a list of the leading counsel in Canada. I see that Mr Schabas is high on that list. Some years ago, a friend of mine asked me to recommend a lawyer in Canada. I enquired of a legal friend and was provided a list with Paul Schabas at the top of it. This was not an “in no particular order” list. But all that aside, why are you fixating on this part of the report? Or is it that you agree with the report, except in relation to Paul Schabas? And yes, I am well aware that there are different lawyers for different specialties – and not just in Canada either – it has been so for many, many years. So, shall we just say that Mr Schabas is one of Canada’s leading lawyers? Happy now?

    BTW, whether you like it or not, I agree with BU that there is a need for attorneys to make their information readily available to prospective clients. I also agree with BU that attorneys who cannot seem to get sufficient work and are not offered teaching positions should consider changing jobs, rather than teefing from clients. Or do you wish to disagree with that too? If so, please make your case and present your solution. I am sure we are all agog.

    @David. Is it a full moon? It must be!!

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  • @Sargeant.
    Just turned to the news channel and see McGuinty resign. We in for some political sport up here too.

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  • Jesus…you people are something else……”highlighting a problem in land law”……the fact is you set out to destroy Kentish with a pack of lies and you did not succeed. The persistence in referring to “Miss Kentish” proves my point. BUT the world witnessed your lies and your credit rating is now ZILCH.

    @ Miller

    And you want “feeling and forgiveness” for this lot…these mendacious, hypocritical scribes? Time to be straight up – you are capable of that I know – even if it means losing a vote. And what a vote…..

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  • @Hants
    Saw the story about McGuinty too, I always thought that the last election would be his last guess his resignation came sooner rather than later, Leader of the Party for 16 years and Premier for 9 years, in Barbados he would be just starting.

    @Amused
    If you could afford Schabas you must really have deep pockets. You may be on to something about lawyers’ info being made public, but what will be the nature of the info and why stop there? Let’s have the info for all professionals who may have an impact on your life in the public domain. Next time I visit my doctor I will have a talk with him to see where he finished in class, how many patients he misdiagnosed etc. I also flew recently guess I should have asked the pilots before I boarded about their experience and professional qualifications.

    If lawyers screw up, the Bar Association should be the first to take action, it has a very voluble President and he can leave his mark by weeding out the bad apples. Let the public see he is doing something to restore dignity to a profession where respect has long receded in the rear view mirror.

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  • 31 new lawyers to be admitted to the Bar today.

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  • millertheanunnaki

    @ David | October 18, 2012 at 7:40 AM |

    More inferior corn for the legal system mill to grind to a halt. Expect them to gravitate to political parties rather soon.

    Barbados is in deep shit. Time we rationalize things and close that law faculty. Move its academic remnants to T&T where future Bajan aspiring lawyers can go at their own expense. The country is now overloaded with lawyers that would overburden the system for another 40 or so years.

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  • @Miller

    We have to respect an individual’s right to pursue the avenue of study he or she desires but at some point the burden of government having to finance law grads must enter the conversation. What sense does it make?

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  • What can one say except that it is all unraveling:

    http://www.nationnews.com/articles/view/a-divided-bar/

    The folly continues, many lawyers but we still need more!

    http://www.nationnews.com/articles/view/legal-aid-plea/

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  • Country overloaded with lawyers? A book dont make a man anything, mechanic, doctor nor lawyer.

    THAT comes from experience and ‘articles’.

    But no, now a person graduate and they is a lawyer.

    Haha. Lawyer my xxxxxxxe. THAT is the problem, y’all tink every pussen who does pass an exam should be a lawyer.Yuh nevah hear yuh cyan mek lime huice wid rocks? Then yuh wonder why people does doan onnerstand de technucalities a de law.

    And evyyting going tuh de dogs. Nuh problem, evvyting else falling apart too.

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  • Some condemn BU for speaking out against the injustices in our Court System. Here is a reminder about what Sir Roy Marshall had to say last year.

    http://www.nationnews.com/articles/view/shame/

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  • “He said the level of the quality of the judiciary was fundamental to the proper running of the country, adding it was a sad fact that very few of Barbados’ leading lawyers had the ambition to join the Bench.”

    Is it that the leading lawyers get rich quick and become addicted to the $$$,,Benzs,Bimmers and fort sandy mansions?

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  • @Hants

    The ‘best’ lawyers in Barbados will have to give up serious dollars to serve on the bench. The obvious conclusion is that we don’t have the best sitting.

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  • There must be some honest lawyers in Barbados. It appears the registry and land titles offices require a major overhaul on how they do business. Computerization of these departments is long over due. Law firms that have a good track record must step forward. If reputation is good then profits to their firms would be good and the dishonest ones will die and fade away. Barbados relies on tourism and has a good reputation as a vacation destination, but a corrupt legal system can quickly lead to a decline in a precious resource.

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  • I have not met one honest attorney in Barbados.. I have had communication with 3 so far and they have all been dishonest. I will no longer recommend this as a tourist destination. It is sad and embarrassing. They believe that they are above the law.

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