A Tynwald committee has said that training for Manx advocates is ‘out of date and insufficient’ and that our legal system ‘is in urgent need of reform’.
The Constitutional and Legal Affairs and Justice Committee, chaired by Jane Poole-Wilson MLC, has delivered its report into the profession, along with 11 recommendations for reform.
As well as recommending several reforms, the committee has criticised the Isle of Man Law Society’s role as both regulator and representative of advocates, which it said is ‘old-fashioned and potentially poses a reputational risk to the Isle of Man’.
The report says: ‘More transparency and openness would greatly improve the current system. We strongly encourage the relevant bodies to work towards making their current processes and structures more transparent and accountable. This would also help to provide evidence for whether or not the current system is working well.
‘In the longer term, however, we believe that a new system of training, regulating, and representing the legal profession in the Isle of Man should be developed. We have decided not to put forward our own recommendations in detail as to how this could be achieved. This is a complicated matter which requires fundamental change and the attention of an expert in regulation. In the absence of a Minister for Justice, we have named the Council of Ministers as the commissioning body for an independent review, but the serious and urgent need for reform underlines the pressing case for appointing a Minister for Justice at the earliest opportunity.’
Regulations and Representation
The committee said that the IoMLS has an ‘inherent perceived conflict of interest in the Law Society’s dual role as both regulator and representative body’.
And that this is ‘exacerbated by the fact that the Council, the Law Society’s highest decision-making body, is composed entirely of practising advocates’.
However, it did note that the IoMLS has put in place structures to mitigate perceived and real conflicts. The Law Society’s Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combatting the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) compliance functions are dealt with by officers, and the conciliation service is carried out by an independent mediator.
Despite the changes made, the committee said that because of the relatively small size of the Manx Bar, ‘there is still a high risk of the perception of conflict of interest whenever practising advocates are deciding how to deal with matters relating to other practising advocates’
The full list of recommendations the committee has made to Tynwald:
- The Manx legal system is in urgent need of reform;
- The training system for Manx advocates is out of date and insufficient;
- The system for qualification should be brought into line with the qualification system in England and Wales;
- There should be a system of practising certificates for Manx advocates and others practising on the Island;
- The process for re-qualifying as a Manx advocate for barristers and solicitors from other common law jurisdictions should be simplified;
- It should be possible for legal practitioners to be given automatic temporary licences, giving them right of audience in Isle of Man courts, if they are briefed by a Manx advocate;
- Registered Legal Practitioners should be classed as Manx advocates with a restricted licence, based on demonstrable experience and expertise;
- A system of Common Professional Development should be introduced;
- The Law Society should not be the representative body and the regulator;
- The disciplinary system for advocates should be reformed and, in particular, the Advocates’ Disciplinary Tribunal in its current form should be abolished; and
- That the Council of Ministers should commission an independent review of the regulation of legal services in the Isle of Man, chaired by a person who has not practised law in the Isle of Man. The review should consider options for implementing the reforms identified in this Report, in particular:
- The development of better resources for training advocates;
- Introduction of practising certificates;
- A new, faster route to requalification as a Manx advocate for foreign-
- Keeping qualification in step with England and Wales;
- The abolition of the category of Registered Legal Professional;
- A definition of the ‘provision of legal services in the Isle of Man’;
- The separation of regulation from representation; and
- A more transparent, user-friendly complaints system, ideally with a
single point of entry, which is able to provide proper guidance as to the standards of conduct expected of all lawyers practising on the Isle of Man.
The committee recommends that this review should report to Tynwald by July 2022.