Give the power to GARFIN!!!

The Grenada Bar Association needs to address as a matter of urgency the abuse by some lawyers of the Escrow Account held on behalf of clients.

A case which was recently in the public domain brought to light once again a frequent complaint from the public about the behaviour of some lawyers with monies given to them to hold as trustees.

There is also the problem of lawyers taking advantage of unsuspecting clients and “milking them” of virtually each and every penny that is available.

The nature of our society is such that the poor man is always in the minority and outside of the Legal Aid & Counseling Office – he does not have the up-front financial means to retain an attorney.

In some cases, an attorney will be prepared to take the case and work for a percentage of the monies awarded through the court system on behalf of a client.

The reality of the situation is that the case belongs to the client and that any monies awarded to him by the court should be given to him in his name and then he should pay the lawyer his fair share in legal fees as part of an upfront arrangement.

However, it appears to be always the other way around in Grenada. The lawyer will collect the money and then pay himself first and foremost and if anything remains at all the client might just be lucky to get some of it.

This is totally wrong and the local Bar Association needs to address this issue to protect the image of the profession.

A lot of sad stories often make the rounds about lawyers selling properties for their clients and then pilfering the monies.

Can you imagine a situation in which a lawyer will sell a client’s property for $300, 000.00 and would turn around and pay himself $250, 000.00 in legal fees and cost and give the client a mere $50, 000.00 for the sale of the said property?

And the situation is compounded by the fact that the same lawyer will act as the legal representative of both the buyer and seller. Whose interest is this lawyer serving? The answer might be simple – not the buyer or the seller but that of the lawyer himself.

THE NEW TODAY would like to see the government, through the Office of the Attorney-General, introduce legislation in Parliament to give the Grenada Authority for the Regulation of Financial Institutions (GARFIN) oversight into all escrow accounts held by lawyers for clients.

As a regulatory body, GARFIN should be empowered to call on lawyers at any time of the day to account for these monies which they are holding as trustees.

If the lawyers are in breach then legal steps should be taken to deal with them including the far-reaching consequence of suspension for a period of time and eventually disbarment.

If the Grenada Bar Association is serious about patrolling the legal profession then quite a few of the lawyers admitted to practice in the local law courts would be in serious trouble.

THE NEW TODAY understands that a few cases have been filed in the Supreme Court Registry involving some of the lawyers and their handling of client’s monies.

A few of these cases might never see the inside of a court house because of manipulation of the judicial system by members of the legal profession themselves.

A lawyer with the right political and legal connection can virtually dictate whether or not his case is put on the list of cases to be presented to a judge for adjudication.

In addition, part of the problem in Grenada and the rest of the region relates to the amount of persons being turned out each year to become members of the legal profession by the University of the West Indies (UWI).

There are few law firms on the island that can be considered to be in the “big league” in terms of running an office that is well staffed and can meet the regular monthly expenses like utility bills.

As such, some lawyers might be forced “to cut corners” in order to make two ends meet and to live a particular life style.

Unfortunately, in a free society it is virtually impossible to put a quota on the amount of lawyers that are required to service a market the size of Grenada.

But in the end it all boils down to “too many cooks will spoil the broth” in the kitchen and this is also equally applicable to the members of the legal profession.

The Bar Association has to take it upon itself to protect the integrity of the profession.

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