Law firms can’t afford articled clerks, says Jennings

| 17/01/2011

(CNS): Following questions surrounding a number of graduates from the Cayman Islands Law School who have been unable to do their articles, the president of the Law Society has called on the legal profession to review the system. Charles Jennings has said that many smaller law firms in Cayman are neither in a position to offer the variety of work needed for articles, nor can they afford to take on clerks and train them. Despite there being some 550 qualified attorneys practicing in the Cayman Islands, it was recently revealed that around a dozen young local trainee lawyers had not been able to qualify because they could not find a place to complete the practical element of their qualification.

Speaking at the opening of the Grand Court last week, Jennings said that expectations regarding articles had to change and 2011 should be the year when the system was reviewed. The former partner with one of the islands’ largest law firms, Maples and Calder, said that while the Law Society sympathises with “their predicament” and was doing what it could to help, he warned that there were reasons why they could not all find places and that it was time to rethink the situation.

“Several law firms, particularly the smaller ones, simply cannot afford to take on an additional full-time employee to train, and furthermore do not have the facilities, or indeed the breadth of practice, to even meet the training requirements currently in force,” Jennings said.

He said that he was coming to the conclusion that the profession, the judiciary and the law school might need to revisit the whole question of articles, the remuneration and the expectations of employment following them.

“The Law Society certainly believes that well qualified, bright and able Caymanian graduates from the law school must have the means offered them to be admitted as attorneys-at-law here,” he said, adding that for some the present system was not delivering. “I’d like to propose that we ear-mark 2011 as the year in which we closely examine and … revise the present requirements to ensure it does … in a manner that sensibly meets the demands of both those students and … commercial and business reality.”

During the ceremonial opening Attorney General Sam Bulgin and President of the Cayman Bar Association James Bergstrom had both noted that there were still graduates that had not found places but everything was being done to find a solution to the situation.

Following Jenning’s speech, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie also remarked  that it was unfortunate that after studying hard to qualify for the profession these young lawyers were being denied the ability to qualify, and called on the profession to help.

The problem was raised in the Legislative Assembly at the end of last year when MLA Alden McLaughlin asked why the young would-be lawyers were struggling to find places and what efforts were being made by the attorney general to put pressure on legal firms to provide the necessary training opportunities for young Caymanians.

At the time Bulgin said it should be part of a lawyer’s DNA to both train law school graduates and do pro bono work but government should not have to compel the legal profession to undertake these important roles.

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  1. slowpoke says:

    Maybe the CI Law School needs to revise its admission requirements, to ensure that all students and graduates, will be acceptable to local law firms for this "articulating" thing. 

    • Subway Cookie says:

      When a person applies to enroll in the LLB program at the CILS regard is given to grades of previous degrees, associates degrees and even back to high school if I am correct.  If you meet the criteria for enrollment then you are offered a place.  The CILS cannot at the point of offering a place know for certain which students will achieve firsts and which will only obtain a pass so it would be difficult at that stage to know which students to ‘market’ as articled clerks.  That way seems a bit unfair anyway, I used my degree and 3.8 GPA to get into law school and I struggled my first year actually failing one course and having to re-sit.  I was projected to achieve a 2.2 at best but I busted my hump and graduated with a 2.1 so just because a student doesnt come into the LLB program as a high achiever does not mean they won’t complete successfully and deserve articles.

  2. Anonymous says:

    At this rate, going to the Cayman Islands Law School is a complete waste of time……… would be better off getting a Bachelors at ICCI or UCCI.

  3. Anonymous says:

    There is NO room at the INN Cayman What part of nodon’t you people understand?

  4. Anonymous says:

    My first question would be what are the passes of these individuals? If indeed these individuals graduated with 2-1 or higher passes and are still unable to find placement then I would say there is a serious issue. Otherwise, Caymanian or not we have to raise the standard of our achievement and realize that mediocre passes are simply not good enough.  We are in very competitive, lean economic times and the best of the best will be first to be placed. Unfortunately no business is going to want to take on additional costs without the supplemental benefit and honestly why would they??

    If you are going to invest into going to law school then you really need to consider in these lean times that if I am not at the top levels of my class then more than likely I will be wasting my investment. It is a very real consideration in these tough times. That’s a reality!

    • Anonymous says:

       Good question, and that was my thought too.  However, I graduated from law school in the UK with distinction and unable to find articles or even a job.  Next question.  Thank you.  

      • Attorney says:

        Was this a post-graduate legal course like the CPE or the LPC? They are the only ones I know of that give "distinctions".  If so it does not count for anything to an employer as it is only the degree they care about.  The post-grad stuff is all considered irrelevant form filling. 

        So here is the "next question".  What did you get in your degree, what was it in and where did you study?

    • My two p says:

      Agreed.   The truth is it is extremely difficult to get articles even in the UK unless you have gradated from Oxford or Cambridge with a good degree. It is not uncommon for people to apply to over 400 companies for articles and receive only one offer (if that). 

      Added to this, the training you receive in the UK is far superior to here in Cayman.  Not for any other reason that the firms are that much bigger and the work is much for varied.  Huge transactions are carried out.  A trainee gets treated terribly and is made to do the grunt work.  It is hard and horrid and is also the best way to learn and get the right broad experience of the law that you need to succeed.

      Now, back to Cayman, if you really want to really succeed as a lawyer you need to ask yourself if you are prepared to work ten plus hours a day, having a sandwich at your desk and doing whatever it takes.  Forget family, children and everything else.   If you are, then go for it. If you think you can get away with a minimum amount of work, arrive at your desk at 9.00, leave at 5.00, have a two hour lunch break and leave when you need to pick your children up from school or because someone is sick, forget it.  To be a success you need to put in the hours, do the work and stick at it.  Nothing comes for free. 

      • Subway Cookie says:

        @My 2 p – I know that people may be tired of seeing me on here but this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.  I lived in the UK for several years and was blessed to paralegal with a magic circle firm.  I saw what the articled clerks went through.  Gruelling work, horrible hours, etc so I definitely agree with you.  Students were able to gain experience in areas that they perhaps would not in Cayman, but you know what there are Caymanian lawyers, educated and trained in Cayman thriving in UK firms, Hong Kong firms and NY firms.  Give us our due, you are so quick with the stereotypes and negativity but MANY of us work hard, sacrifice and prove ourselves and we do it with people (foreign and local) telling us we can’t the whole time.

        The UK and Cayman are two vastly different countries, different experiences, cultures and for once it would be nice to have Caymanians and foreigners embrace and accept that instead of using our differences as proof one is better than another.  When I worked in the UK I was constantly called racist names as I walked to work every day – walking past born English people who spent their days waiting for their dole money, sat outside their council flats waiting for the pub to open.  When at work I was always told I shouldn’t be allowed to work there because I was taking the job of an English person (despite having my UK passport, paying taxes, doing charity work and investing my money in the country).  It made me angry but it would NEVER make me make condescending remarks about the English or the UK.  Nor would it make me measure every English person by stereotypes.  I work hard every day, I work overtime, I work weekends, I get the job done BUT I also have a rewarding family life so respectfully, you don’t know what you are talking about.  But just for good measure, at our firm for the first time a fee earner was reprimanded for spending excessive hours surfing the net and playing crossword puzzles…he was NOT Caymanian.  Stop judging us, none of us are perfect so stop stepping on those if us who try every day and never give up and set good examples.

        Really succeeding as a lawyer does take dedication and long hours etc.  However, it is equally possible to have a successful legal career and a family life if you so choose.  I’m doing it and I have no wife sitting at home, I have no nanny, no after school childminder, no SUV, no perks.  Certain firms expect no less than what you describe above and if that’s what you want then fine.  My firm is amazing, we do so many different types of work, we work damn hard and we ALL have family lives and actually promote taking a one hour break from a long day for lunch and relaxing the mind.  Our partners are wonderful, knowledgeable, hard working, educated people who recognize that while we succeed to make the business a success, we also deserve to have time outside of work.

        That is why I stress that students must figure out what type of firm they want to work for.  If you don’t want a family life then do as you say above, if you do then focus on other firms where work/home balance is respected.  THAT does not make me any less capable than those who slave to their jobs, that only shows we have a different set of priorities. 

  5. Just wondering... says:

    What are the training requirements that are currently in force? The Legal Practitioner’s Law and the Student’s regulations appear to be silent in this regard. To my knowledge, non exist, except for model guidance issued by Maples & Calder.

  6. Caymanian First says:

    Lets see the financial statements for these law firms!

    Can’t afford to train these 11 law school graduates?

    Just the thought of someone uttering such insincere dribble is enough to make me sick.

    There is absolutely no reason why they could not or should not be articled here in the Cayman Islands. 

    These  11 should hold a peaceful demonstration in front of the Legislative Assembly. 

    Every person who has demonstrated in front of the Legislative Assembly has gotten a job to date.



  7. TruTru says:

     Caymanians ya look a pretty with this big time law degree. Every week don’t you see who is getting called to the Bar.You better off checking MLA Ellio Solomon for a space on the road side clean up crew list. i would like to send out a special thanks to our so call  political pioneers who have set us so far back, we are unable to see that the opportunities no longer exist in this island. Caymanians just don’t seem get it.

  8. Hard Knocks says:

    Are law firms businesses or charity homes for waifs and strays with a misplaced sense of ability? 

    Not all students of law are capable of becoming lawyers. 

    Get real.  Your mommy may have said you could be anything you want to be.  Here is a newsflash.  Your mommy lied.  Get over it.

    • My2Cents says:

      Spot on Mr. Hard Knocks. Well said.

      Simply studying for a degree does not mean you have the ability or aptitude to be a lawyer.

      This is real life. It’s ugly. Get your head down, work damn hard, and maybe with a little luck thrown in, you’ll make it.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Law is like many other professional studies . In professions like medicine, even after graduation, one has to do a period of rotaionay internship in different areas before you are given a licence. Unlike in the legal profession, these interns in medicine are paid only a allowance which covers onlt part of ones expenses. This policy is in place in many commenwealth jurisdictions.

    I suggest that the same principle be used for article clerks who are in a similar position of medical students before one graduates and given a Licence.

    Many of the firms will support this in these hard economic times. As far as the range of exposure,the different law firms in specialised ares of law can have these articled clerks rotate and thus get exposure before being called to the bar.

    A similar practice is many other professions too.

    Let us give this model a try without exposing Law firms to undue financial stress. They would be more than happy to support this model

    • Anonymous says:

      Reading the comments to the topic, makes me wonder if Caymanians want to be practical and solve problems or just be negative because of a feeling of having a chip on their shoulder.

      That was not how Cayman was build by our elders. They were progressive in their thinking inspite of having limited education. I donot recollect anyone telling me that they were whining. I only heard positive stories of their sincerehard work with a desire to make themselves and their country succeed. I think the Government stay out of this and let market forces decide.

      This business of looking for Government support for all problems should not be encouraged. It becomes more intrusive in our lives and occupation. It will destroy any innovative ideas and kill the ambitions of many future young hard working people.

      As wise people say, donot expect the government to solve all your problems.

  10. Clerking with the Govt says:

    Folks, there should be a program so they can clerk with the judges, doing research and case management.  These are very desirable positions in some jurisdictions.  Cayman has great judges, so why not have the government toss a few bucks that way.  If they can afford new SUVs for the head cheeses, they can fund a salary for a clerk.

  11. Anonymous says:

    There are literally hundreds of thousands of students globally looking for articles/training contracts.

    In the UK you are warned of the competitive nature in securing a training contract and how only the top students get places before you go to law school, and you are made fully aware before you make the commitment both financially and with your time/effort.

    People are applying for years and many nsadly never make it!

    Same story again here, Cayman is different….its not. It doesn’t matter what your race, religion or gender, its a tough world out there and you need to work super hard, a degree and nationality is not enough anymore! You HAVE to strive to be the best amongst thousands of students, not just the population of a small island.

    Welcome to the real world guys, its ugly but its real!

    • Anonymous says:

      Except the UK is not importing the majority of it’s lawyers on work permits!

    • Anonymous says:

      This is not the UK my dear fellow!

      We have overemployment here in the specific profession of law, as evidenced by the sheer number of work-permits.

      Caymanians must come first in their own country and replace all of those on work-permits. Plain and simple mate.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The comment  " expectations regarding articles had to change  " is not clear from Mr. Jennings.

    However we hope that he does not mean that Caymanian Law students should not legitimately  expect to have access to articles. If this is indeed the case, then it flies in the face of the policies of the Caymanian Protection Board, and he should be given notice himself, regardless of his position.

    Too many persons have come here and got rotten rich at the expense of Caymanians, and have contributed little if anything to society.

    If the expectations are to change then it should be made easier to gain articles.

  13. Anonymous says:

    why dont the new lawyers go to the states to complete their qualifications? then they will have much more experience crime wise when they return?

    its obvious cayman has no vacancies and what with the recession and all.

    • Anonymous says:

      "why dont the new lawyers go to the states to complete their qualifications"

      For the same reason U.S. lawyers don’t come here to practice law. It’s a totally different legal system.

    • Pending says:

      Because they have UK Law degrees and are not qualified attorneys…. You have to be a qualified UK Attorney (i.e pass the UK Bar and get Articled) before you can practice in a Commonwealth Country, Overseas Territory,  or the UK itself.

      They could go and do the US Bar (whichever State), but they would then still be in the same position upon their return to Cayman in terms of working here.

    • Anonymous says:

      becasue we use UK law here and not US……despite the total Americanisation of this place it is a British Overseas Territory remember!

      If i were you I’d get read up on the law, knowing your rights is vital.

  14. JTB says:

    Objectively speaking, these graduates would be better off finding training contracts in the UK or USA where they are likely to get a far more rounded and complete training than they would in the Caymans where most legal work relates to trusts and mutual funds.

    • You cannot be serious says:

      The top 4 law firms in Cayman can well afford to foot this bill, there is no excuse here, they are making millions a year and cant afford to pay 2,000 per month for article clerks ? sell that story elsewhere!

      Training of local Lawyers should be a requirement to operate a Law Firm here. I may be a bit protectionist etc but when you consider the way some of these firms treat the local Lawyers that would not even tip the scale in our favor.


      • BKL says:

        With all due respect, are you really suggesting that an ArticledClerk, who is an individual that has a law degree and who has passed either the Bar (in the UK) or the PPC (in Cayman) be paid a monthly salary of CI$2000.00?

        Would you accept a monthly salary of CI$2,000 after attending college for four years and having received your Bachelor’s degree?  School leavers make more money than that.  

        • Anonymous says:

          That is the going wage my friend! Check it out.

          • oh and By the way says:

            The CEO of one of the top 3 firms takes home more than the annual cost of these 11 clerks each year, and guess what ? that person isn’t even from here! so now you see what the priority list is – or do you ?


        • Subway Cookie says:

          That is correct!  I am articling and that is almost exactly what I get paid.  Yes I would be earning more right now had I not went to law school and did my post grad studies etc if I perhaps worked in a bank or trust company.  But this is what I want and I have no problem driving a second hand car, living in a modest apartment and sacrificing to get there.  I know larger firms pay more, but as I said before I know what kind of attorney I want to be and what type of firm I want to work for so I am happy.  The $ will get better when I qualify.  If you really want something you buss your a%* until you get it. 

  15. Subway Cookie says:

    I empathize with the individuals seeking articles.  It is not easy since students graduate annually, while articles run for 18 months so smaller law firms cannot afford to employ articled clerks every single year.  Kudos to those firms who are making an effort to employ students and train them. 

    I know a few of the 11 or so seeking articles.  I sincerely wish you all the best and I hope that every effort is made to allow you to continue on the path to qualifying.  My personal advice is to ensure you do apply to smaller firms, not just the ‘Big 3’ and figure out exactly what type of lawyer you are trying to become so you can better market yourself to those firms.  It is by no means an easy task but its not impossible either. 

    • Scottish,Irish,Jamacian born CAYMANIAN says:

      subway cookie!…… i lov ur optomizm ma’un and do we ever now, need to b!…… pity that we all did’nt ascribe to that type of think’n caus Cayman & its people (by blood sweat & tears or paper & ink) would be much better off…….

  16. Anonymous says:

    Maybe they don’t want to sell their BMW’s.