Two female lawyers

| 02/02/2009

I have been closely following the story about Theresa Pitcairn and now Sophia Dilbert. I read their writ. I was shocked. In the United States if the body regulating the behaviour of lawyers got wind of either of these writs they would commence their own investigation.

I have not seen any public statements by either what I understand to be the Caymanian Bar Association or the Cayman Islands Law Society. Interestingly enough, Ms Dilbert’s writ raises certain questions about the chairperson of the Cayman Islands Law Society. That alone ought to at the very least raise some eyebrows and warrant some serious scrutiny and investigation. I have not seen any comments by the islands’ attorney general. Like I said, this would not be the climate in the United States or probably in any other Caribbean state.

I started asking people that I know in the islands about this firm and about these ladies. Many people speak of the firm’s good reputation internationally, its involvement with drafting commercial legislation and the likely wealth of its partners. I did not like what I heard about how Caymanian lawyers have been treated so I will leave the question of its employment practices to the courts.

My sources could not reveal too much about Ms Dilbert other than her aunt Lorna Hampson was the former chairperson of the Immigration Board and is also a lawyer herself. I Google Ms Dilbert and discovered that she is a regular in the media with women’s football in the islands and that she co-chaired the Immigration Appeal Tribunal. My question was whether this Board would likely appoint “wastage” as suggested in Netnews cover story to such an auspicious position.

My sources was able to tell be a bit more about Ms Pitcairn who I understand had some celebrity status as Ms Cayman and was one of the first Caymanians to participate in the establishment of the theatre and represented the Cayman Islands at CARIFESTA. Everyone that I spoke to said that she was very bright and articulate and active in the community. Most people also said that “she speaks her mind”, is a “straight shooter” and “you always know where you stand” with her which in a small island does not bode well. No one said that she was stupid or dishonest, always quickly pointing out that her mother and uncle were police and highly respected in the islands.

When I was told that she “speaks her mind” I had a look at the various newspapers articles on the net and read some pretty intelligent articles that she wrote. In each of these articles you saw her addressing the need for balance in the islands, whether in relation to the youth, political direction, economic prosperity and Caymanian expatriate relations. I saw that Dave Martins also mentioned this strength in a recent article. As an outsider looking in Ms Pitcairn did not strike me as someone that it “not focused”, rebellious maybe, but “not dedicated”? And referred to as “wastage”? Wow! Living in America this is what we are accustomed to when it comes to organized character assassination and institutional racism associated with women like Ms Pitcairn and Ms Dilbert.

I hope that in the interest of the islands, that someone in authority reviews these allegations independently and takes these cases seriously since the Caymanian Bar Association or the Cayman Law Society has not. This is separate and apart from any court proceedings. If what these ladies are saying is proven to be true this is quite serious. I keep an eye on the CNS website relating to this case. While most people seemed to support Ms Pitcairn the level of hate, racism and animosity against Caymanians from some people is not only scary but seems to be a very living and breathing element in these islands. I have to wonder if these are comments from a place I used to call home, somewhere in the Caribbean in the 21st century.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This is not the first time that I have heard Caymanian attorney´s being given the ¨Stick with the S—¨ I have heard this bouncing around for many years and as the old saying goes, ¨where there is smoke, there is sure to be fire¨

  2. Anonymous says:

    I don’t just think this is a Caymanian issue….although the comments made on this story show how much tension and repression is being felt by Caymanians and that should be addressed. I think this has a lot to do with sexism, as well. Men hold the top jobs and are more willing to hire another man…many of these men sit around and complain about their wives openly therefore it is evident  what kind of respect they have for women. Many men do not believe a woman, despite what they preach, is as capable and they find it easier to commuicate with other men (clearly as they cannot effectively communicate with their wives and hence complain about them to others). This attitude has come along way from the "rule of thumb" but not far enough to give a woman the same opportunities there are for a man. If you look at any profession on this island (as women’s rights have not been on the agenda as much here as they have in other countries) men make up the majority, if not all, of the senior positions. They have higher calibre work, more billable hours and higher salaries. There may be a token woman on the roll but unfortunatley most men still have a primitive mind set on the issue and perhaps for the sake of their own egos, do not want to believe a woman can be as or more capable then them. Imagine being an ethnic (non-white) woman then  you have to be the token Caymanian, or representative of another ethnicity and the token female and tokens are mainly there for show and that becomes their purpose.

    I must admit that, at least with clerical positions, there are those Caymanians present that come into work with a bad attitude, come in when they want to and call in sick constantly and although they may be capable, refuse to expend the energy. Although those Caymanians are a percentage they have created a stereotype amongst expats which is clearly then applied to the general population.

    In general I must say, as an expat, I do see Caymanians getting less perks, less delegation of work, and lower salaries in the professional sphere.The majority  do seem to get the minimum to keep them happy so they may aid the immigration quotas. If Cayman did not have laws which forced companies to hire Caymanians I can say with confidence that there would be high unemployment rates for them. This coupled with being female, makes it impossible to climb the ladder. And I think its great to see someone fighting for their rights as unless people step up to the plate change would never come.

    The Cayman Law Society needs to regulate the profession, as it is regulated in England, enforcing equal opportunity and training. Under English standards no law firm on this island would be allowed to offer a training program. Most firms hire expats who have trained in leading law firms overseas to get their work done and therefore offer training programs, which don’t meet standards just to be in the top 100 and then do not offer the individual as much work even though it’s of no fault of the individual as the firm hasn’t given them the resources to be as up to par as those trained in firms regulated by the Law Society of England and Wales.

    • Anonymous says:

      "The Cayman Law Society needs to regulate the profession, as it is regulated in England, enforcing equal opportunity and training".

      You make some good points but heaven forbid that the Cayman Law Society should have any such role. It is dominated by by a few of the big firms who use it to serve their own commercial interests. Mr. X  of Y firm walks in holding proxies for a hundred other lawyers and railroads their agenda through any dissent. This would be like getting the fox to guard the chicken house.    


  3. Anonymous says:

    The President of the Law Society is of course the Managing Partner of Maples and Calder. Nothing more need be said on that score. In recent years the CBA Leadership has abandoned the pursuit of its primary object of promoting and protecting the interests of Caymanian attorneys and has opted instead to be a side-kick to the Law Society, rubber-stamping its positions and agendas.  The Caymanian attorney therefore cannot expect that either could or would fairly arbitrate or investigate any issues arising.  

  4. Anonymous says:

    Well written, well researched, and well put!