I was delighted to be inaugurated as the President of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association during its highly successful Commonwealth Law Conference in Livingstone, Zambia in April 2019. Coming from a small jurisdiction like Northern Ireland this is an especial honour.
I wish to pay tribute to my immediate predecessor Santhaan Krishnan who has set a high bar in establishing contacts and becoming engaged with Law Associations and Bar Councils in most of the Commonwealth jurisdictions.
Very much a priority for me will be to consolidate the good work that Santhaan has undertaken and to ensure that the network of Law Associations or Bar Councils throughout the Commonwealth are all actively connected to the CLA and that work will continue throughout my Presidency.
A new Council was elected in Livingstone which it is my pleasure to work with and the Council has appointed an Executive Committee which will take forward the policies and goals set by Council. ExCo has also been refreshed and I know the members will work hard to deliver continuing growth and improvement for the CLA and will work closely with our excellent Secretary General. (In the coming weeks we will be doing a ‘Spotlight on CLA people’ as a regular feature, to introduce you to our committees).
I hope to attend strategic and regional meetings throughout the Commonwealth, some of which are already organised and some of which will be organised by and through the regional hub Chairs who all became Vice–Presidents of the CLA during the conference in Livingstone. I look forward to working closely with the four Vice–Presidents and Chairs of regional hubs. I have asked Santhaan to take on a special role of coordinator of the regional hubs and to encourage and support our Vice–Presidents in their activities.
My personal interests throughout my career in the law have been legal education and vocational training, regulation of the legal profession, mediation and property related land development work. This latter includes planning and housing development work. I would be pleased to share my experience and learn from the experience of others in relation to these topics.
Also during my presidential term I will be advancing the Child Marriage project and acquainting as many jurisdictions as possible with the excellent work which has resulted in the CLA Child Marriage Report, a magnificent compendium of knowledge and reference source of the law in all of the Commonwealth jurisdictions. I wish to pay tribute to Téa Braun of the Human Dignity Trust for her work on this project and to Rachael Taylor of the Law Department of the London School of Economics and her team of students for their work on this hugely important project.
A further topic of importance and interest is that of freedom of speech. This rears its head so frequently in so many of our jurisdictions that the CLA must develop a clear policy of support for lawyers in any jurisdiction who find themselves in peril because they have simply represented a client, spoken uncomfortable truths or challenged decisions based upon the law.
I shall continue the work of CLA concerning judicial appointments, Latimer House Principles, anti–corruption and of interventions and observations in trials concerning matters of importance to the legal profession.
I also am interested in developing a practical outreach of skill sharing and best practice with jurisdictions and hope that a proper platform for identifying need in jurisdictions and delivering training and expertise from our membership network can be achieved during my term. I have a particular interest in identifying the need in small jurisdictions in the Commonwealth and looking for support from our larger and better resourced jurisdictions.
I was delighted with the warmth and friendly atmosphere of the Livingstone conference. I was delighted to have played a part in the exercise of Corporate Social Responsibility on behalf of the CLA by our support of building a classroom for disadvantaged children through support of the Zambezi Sunrise Trust. The Law Society of Northern Ireland, has recently decided to continue to support the Zambezi Sunrise Trust throughout my 2 year presidential term.
I look forward to seeing many of my friends in the CLA throughout my term in their host jurisdictions and of course making new friends as I try and visit, where I can, your regional conferences and individual legal events.
I am humbled to now be the President of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and look forward to my term.
With my best wishes to you all.
Commonwealth Lawyers Association