Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / Dear Editor: T&T’s legal profession woefully short on ethics; pound home Her Excellency’s message

Dear Editor: T&T’s legal profession woefully short on ethics; pound home Her Excellency’s message

“Twenty years ago, the ‘Nolan principles’ in the UK sought to improve standards in public life. These seven principles are: Selflessness; Integrity; Objectivity; Accountability; Openness; Honesty; Leadership. At the time, these principles were revolutionary because they focused on behaviour and culture, rather than processes.

“You’d be hard-pushed to find anyone to argue against such noble values or that these principles do not apply to the legal or any professional in T&T.”

The following Letter to the Editor on President Paula-Mae Weekes’ call for improved ethical conduct in Trinidad and Tobago’s legal profession was submitted to Wired868 by international criminal lawyer Ula Nathai-Lutchman:

Photo: President Paula-Mae Weekes has called for the local legal profession to consider its ethical core.
(Courtesy Office of the President)

In her ‘One Year In Office’ interview, Her Excellency President Paula-Mae Weekes’ prior statement on ethical conduct in the legal profession came into focus again:

“For six years, I taught the course Ethics, Rights and Responsibilities of the Legal Profession. I was disappointed to find that a significant percentage of the students, among them scholarship winners and other high achievers, were lazy and dishonest, had a sense of entitlement and wanted maximum return for minimum effort.

“It was clear that these failings of character had been carried over from their earlier interaction with the education system.”

In explaining her prior statement, Her Excellency espoused that ethics isn’t “simply an examinable subject but rather something that would infiltrate your thinking on the whole as you practised.”

I applaud Her Excellency’s statements because it cuts deeper into the depths of professionalism, where light may not shine on hard evidence. There is something very fundamental in T&T society, that is currently lacking—the effort to walk with integrity and to be straightforward. Everyone needs to listen up, think more deeply about what Her Excellency has said and act positively.

Photo: A satirical take on law.

Twenty years ago, the ‘Nolan principles’ in the UK sought to improve standards in public life. These seven principles are: Selflessness; Integrity; Objectivity; Accountability; Openness; Honesty; Leadership. At the time, these principles were revolutionary because they focused on behaviour and culture, rather than processes.

You’d be hard-pushed to find anyone to argue against such noble values or that these principles do not apply to the legal or any professional in T&T.

Not everybody who cuts corners or behaves unethically will be caught and put right by the disciplinary committee of the Law Association. The deeper concerns though are for those not caught and who create headaches and trouble for the courts and their clients.

So, what does that mean? It means that only a small but ‘significant percentage’ of those who are the worst performers will be caught. ‘They cyah ketch everybody’ who fall below the ethical dimensions of lawyering, so what you have to do is pound home Her Excellency’s message.

We cannot wait for unethical or unconscionable patterns of conduct to surface at the entry points of the legal profession or to come into focus of the disciplinary body later on. The stakes are too high.

Let’s put in place that moral and ethical education for ‘a significant percentage of the students’ and their ‘failings of character’.

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2 comments

  1. Alecia SampleBradshaw

    Aside from the global “me too” movement, Caribbean women have always held high standards for self and family, unlike men. There are women today, more so single parents, who still raising children with good morals and disciples and yes we tip our hats to those women. Men selfishly seem to be harvesting the fruits and still creating no roots. They are becoming more and weaker studs than the pods in the pan. Therefore, what other than a woman with a spine that helps in the upstanding of carrying the weight of a child to deliver the “Nolan principles” to her children.

    I’ve been following and paying attention to a few Caribbean women of substance in public life lately. I’ve admired the strong stance Prime Minister of Barbadoes took in cosmopolitan the Caribbean nations. President of Trinidad and Tobago for her Independence speech on the effectiveness of Bi-partisan government and separatism only result in failure, and now her stand on the “Nolan principles.” And last but not least Trinidad and Tobago Minister of Sport for making the under twelve football team the last trip possible. These women unlike their counterparts are talking the talk and walking the walk. They need strong male figures to support them amnd laed the island to great standards of the “Nolan principle”

  2. Lasana Liburd….How many legal professional holding offices where ethics is non-negotiable in TnT? Love the article, don’t let up on this topic.