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Treat our local lawyers better! Hon Smith to law firms

- said local lawyers doing the same work but getting none of the benefits as expat lawyers
Law firms in the Virgin Islands have been accused of treating local lawyers unfairly, including by denying them benefits and opportunities given to expatriates. Photo:
Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, Honourable Neville A. Smith (AL) is advocating for local legal luminaries to be treated better. Photo: Youtube
Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, Honourable Neville A. Smith (AL) is advocating for local legal luminaries to be treated better. Photo: Youtube
DUFF'S BOTTOM, Tortola, VI- Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, Honourable Neville A. Smith (AL) is advocating for local legal luminaries to be treated better.

Honourable Smith made his case during the Seventh Sitting of the Third Session of the Fourth House of Assembly (HoA) at the Save the Seed Energy Centre in Duff’s Bottom, Tortola on Thursday, April 22, 2021.

He complained that these professionals were getting the shorter end of the stick in comparison to their regional and international counterparts, admitting that his statements were going to be controversial.

“We have a set of professionals who we call lawyers, our BVI lawyers. I think they are being treated unfair[ly] from a lot of the companies that we have here. I am saying this because I see it with my own eyes, Mr Speaker. We have local lawyers working, doing the same work or even better work than some of the lawyers that come in here. They don’t get none of the benefits that these lawyers are getting, but they getting the same work,” he reasoned.

The At-Large Representative also said some of the expatriate lawyers are opportunists.

“Mr Speaker, we send our children and our people away to study to be professionals, and they come back to be a part of this building nation that we have here because when these lawyers come here, they come to get experience from us, they come here to get into our bar and go back.”

Locals being bypassed!

Honourable Smith said there are instances where locals are being bypassed for positions that they can fill.

“They [law firms] prefer to bring in a lawyer from either the Caribbean or the UK. We have to do something about it. When our local lawyers are trying to get a job, they tell them, the lawyers, they don’t have experience. How do you get experience? By working. We cannot afford and let other lawyers come in here and overshadow our lawyers, and we have the same qualifications. We keep on saying that we want our people to work, to do things, but we have to back them! We have to find some way to create some way that the lawyers could benefit, [get] the same benefits that these lawyers come here and getting.”

Honourable Smith pointed to a scenario where a lawyer was given a scholarship to pursue her masters in law and wanted to get study leave.

“She did not get it but a junior lawyer, somebody who come here working, he wasn’t a full lawyer, asked for study leave, and he got it. That is not right, Mr Speaker, and those are the things that happen to our lawyers.”

He added: “I could go on and on and on, but we need to make sure that our lawyers need to be taken care of in the BVI. We have some of the best lawyers in the world, very intelligent people. We have to fight for what is ours; I am not saying none of the lawyers who come here ain’t deserve to get something, but lawyers here also deserve something as well, and we have to start looking out for our lawyers here.”

27 Responses to “Treat our local lawyers better! Hon Smith to law firms”

  • Literacy (26/04/2021, 08:20) Like (6) Dislike (0) Reply
    They don't get none?
  • omg (26/04/2021, 08:27) Like (32) Dislike (12) Reply
    Did those highly talented BVI lawyers never think of setting up a law firm in all these decades of financial services?
    There are plenty of opportunities afforded to BVIslanders in all of the professions and most of the time there is no interest in taking a scholarship or a work experience placement or starting at the bottom like so many have to do everywhere else. Why? Well the laws of this land are set up to lead our children to think the world owes them a living. They should have a job by birthright. That’s setting them up to fail. And then we are shocked and blame everything else when they do. If there has been an injustice in this one matter (if it is a real matter) that has “come to his attention”, there is a proper process to raise that grievance internally rather than pulling your government friend to complain in government.
    Every law firm here would fall over themselves to pick up an Oxbridge/NUS educated highly motivated trainee. That is not the same as having a bachelors from WhoKnowsWhere University, Florida with a family member in government. If you are good, they can charge you to clients for an incredible amount of money and that is all it comes down to.
    Without the Jamaicans, Brits, Trinis etc we wouldn’t even have the industry which has built up our territory

    • ..... (26/04/2021, 10:03) Like (13) Dislike (10) Reply

      Actually, some of these law firms pick up jamaicans straight out of law school, over our equivalently qualified lawyers from the same law schools out. Some law firms just refuse to hire local lawyers, C****** *l****and O*****, for all the years they have been here don't even have one local lawyer.

      • ... (26/04/2021, 11:27) Like (16) Dislike (6) Reply

        The most famous is M***** *z******* — not ONE Black person in that firm and it’s on purpose.

      • The system is a sham! (26/04/2021, 14:35) Like (3) Dislike (9) Reply
        Some firms actually actively recruit trainees from UWI because they know the quality education delivered there. Unfortunately, these trainees are typically Jamaican or other Caribbean nationalities. The BVI students feel that UWI is beneath them (the down-island is less-than mentality) so they go to unknown or poorly ranked universities in the UK instead, thinking that it automatically makes them better off. UWI is also incredibly expensive unless you are a national of one of their campus countries.
        Let's not ignore that some of our local students are unable to get upper first class honours in their studies. When you have British Partners in a law firm who understand the UK university system, it is hard to convince them to hire a local with lower second class honours from "WhoKnowsWhere University" when up against a better-on-paper trainee from elsewhere. That is a simple recruitment fact.
        The other problem is that the UK lawyers in particular, come here after a year or two with a UK firm, so they are given an advantage. If our locals stayed and worked a few years before coming back home, they would be better off. But then again, the UK system is so flawed that half the time, it is impossible for a lawyer of colour to secure a decent placement in the first place, especially with the degree from "WhoKnowsWhere University".
        What does bother me though, is when they recruit Joe Blogss over ANY local merely because of the colour of Joe's skin and accent and then pays him better than a local counterpart. Worse yet, when they fast-track Joe for progression and give him better work than the local trainee. The whole bloody system is messed up!
        • Sigh (26/04/2021, 19:51) Like (1) Dislike (1) Reply
          Looks like you pretend on the one hand we hire too many Jamaicans and on the other that the UK doesn’t hire lawyers of colour. Even the expat UK lawyers here have a fair few of colour so that imaginary victim hood doesn’t help to understand the issue.
        • Oh Please (27/04/2021, 07:58) Like (5) Dislike (1) Reply
          Oh please, UWI is crap outside of the Caribbean. UWI law grads can’t even get into bar school in the UK directly without having to do over courses.
    • Future (26/04/2021, 13:10) Like (4) Dislike (2) Reply
      You may have a point if all the ex-pat lawyers were from prestigious schools, they are not. The point is not about building a BVI law firm. There are those. But if I decided I want to work for a law firm that is also based in Hong Kong, because that is the type of work I am interested in, then the workplace should be fair, period. Most BVI lawyers work in the US because they are treated better than if they work here. UWI is one of the top law schools in the Caribbean and deserves its respect if this is a school that is attended. They actually study law. Most lawyers major in another subject then take the bar exam.
  • Shaft (26/04/2021, 08:31) Like (11) Dislike (1) Reply
    If they are honest but we know most of them are just a bunch of hustlers
  • mad max (26/04/2021, 08:31) Like (19) Dislike (6) Reply
    Bring facts not water cooler gossip. You are in an important position now.
    • Future (26/04/2021, 13:02) Like (10) Dislike (5) Reply
      This is a fact. Some law firms pay differently based on the color of the skin. Some of the ex-pat lawyers are not from prestigious schools they are friends of other lawyers. Facts were taken to the minister. Stop assuming this is from gossip.
      • mad max (27/04/2021, 08:11) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
        Facts contain real information. There aren’t any provided so still just gossip.
  • Yes Sheep (26/04/2021, 08:32) Like (5) Dislike (17) Reply
    Its the same thing in the police force, only 1 local working in a Specialized area. Locals are discriminated against by that black dwarf and his cronies. He needs to go home for good.
  • coi (26/04/2021, 08:43) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
    Saying this while they hired an expat for the COI. Just stop.
  • Wickedness (26/04/2021, 08:49) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    In high places...but all attention down below. Fingers pointing . Criminal hiding and ones getting branded....
  • Free Market (26/04/2021, 08:53) Like (18) Dislike (6) Reply
    Client's can choose who they want to represent them based on experience, skill and price. Presumably you're asking this to change, based on a birth right. There are just as many local firms that international ones here. Typical BVI BS.
  • Guest (26/04/2021, 09:23) Like (18) Dislike (6) Reply
    It is the same for regular workers at the trust companies as well. Many of them have out smarted FSC and labor and are now sourcing the work overseas while still displacing local workers with cheaper Filipino workers on the island itself .......
  • trrefdrfds (26/04/2021, 09:48) Like (20) Dislike (6) Reply
    If that is the case, it does not make sence finding ways to boost up the economy. Lets scale down a bit because we are not benifitting. There will always be an excuse why BVIslanders do not deserve anything. That is because of the greed of some expats and I must say some for all are not bad. What goes around will come around.
  • Rubber Duck (26/04/2021, 12:01) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
    Yes, everyone feels sorry for lawyers.
  • Heckler (26/04/2021, 12:40) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
    Where is the lawyer from who was hired by the VIP to represent them during the COI?
  • taxman (26/04/2021, 13:54) Like (11) Dislike (3) Reply
    Many of the lawyers here have extensive international experience in UK, US, Hong Kong which is exactly what their clients demand of them. It is utter insanity to expect that a local straight out of university should walk into a similar job just because they from here rather than looking at what experience they have.

    Ultimately 3 years working at a large international firm (with a recognised degree) is worth a lot more to employers than someone who has worked for their family firm all their life
  • The bottom line (26/04/2021, 17:56) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
    They know how to manipulate the system in every way!
  • Not Impressed (26/04/2021, 20:01) Like (5) Dislike (2) Reply
    It is about time something is done about this. And these expat lawyers don't even come from calibre they act like they came from, not one of them. They will try to justify but they are a cent a dozen where they come from. The joke is they act so important. You see you can't get them to leave and stay gone? Because they can not get life any better else where. If they say they move to another country, they are still working on BVI matters. They can't do without the BVI.
  • Mr. Smith (26/04/2021, 23:55) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Although this might be the case, you can't say you know this first hand unless you either work at a firm with this bad practice or there was a labor investigation conducted and you have proof. If you keep spouting things (true or not) just to make noise (2nd one in a week) then you will loose credibility. That being said it is not just the law firms its also other trust companies and BVI government.

    Your BVI government pays a salary and housing allowance to expats from all over. A local's salary alone is less than the expat working in government then when you add the housing allowance it only makes it worst. Therefore, if you are going to speak about this and lobby for change, start with government employee wage parity as the model, then private industry will follow. I have seen the proof.

    Keep in mind most of these companies are operating in your country because the BVI political officials at some point in time promoted it as a business friendly place which everyone knows translates to low regulation and low wages paid to the local workforce population. Now that the cost of living is sky high, driven up with those highly paid expats and illegal activities with a culture thatt has changed...young men and women no long live at home with parents until marriage. You now have a 2nd , soon to be, 3rd generation of renters so quality of life has shifted and changed to where living and sharing expenses at home is not feasible for all on meager salaries or not possible at all. Even if it was it's a personal choice separate and apart from getting a fair wage. So fight for all through legal policy changes in wage structure and stop acting like a third world politician. Take the professional political route which get you more votes and respect.
  • ATU (27/04/2021, 10:41) Like (3) Dislike (1) Reply
    Mr. Smith since this is a point you want to make I urge you to look at the trust companies. If you are about to champion the cause don't just do it from a shortsighted personal advantage point. Go all out
  • Dixon (27/04/2021, 20:38) Like (1) Dislike (2) Reply
    Them locals lawyers are not honest and no professionals at all!!!
  • Norris Turnbull (28/04/2021, 00:08) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    So what's the difference between a lawyer and a Cat Fish?

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