The Bermuda Bar Association held its Annual General Meeting on 26 April 2017, in which the outgoing President presented the Bar Council’s Annual Report for 2016/2017, and a new Bar Council Committee was “elected” (although, in the absence of any contest given that there were fewer candidates than vacancies, there was not a formal election by “ballot” in writing or by “voting on a show of hands” as is arguably required by section 5(3) of the Bermuda Bar Act 1974 and Rule 9 of the Bermuda Bar Association (Organization) Rules 1975).
For present purposes, I want to draw attention to some key elements of the Professional Conduct Committee Chairman’s Report 2016/2017, dealing with the work of that committee.
In particular, the report reveals that:
- between 1 April 2016 and 15 April 2017, there were 37 new complaints of professional misconduct against members of the Bermuda Bar;
- one Bermuda attorney has attracted 5 separate professional misconduct complaints with respect to unrelated matters involving “very unhappy clients“, in which “a common thread is how clients’ monies were dealt with” and “the lack of service once money was handed over to the attorney“. Three of these complaints involve pending tribunal hearings;
- in the same period, 7 Bermuda attorneys were “admonished“;
- only 3 tribunal hearings were concluded during the course of the year (with 12 other tribunal hearings pending), with one complaint being withdrawn, another complaint being dismissed, and a third complaint resulting in a member of the Bar admitting two charges, one of mishandling client trust monies and the other of practicing without a valid Practising Certificate, leading to that attorney being suspended from practice for a period of 3 years (with an order for costs);
- there were three fee complaints raised by clients against their lawyers, but in each case the lawyer declined to participate in the Bar Council’s voluntary scheme for fee arbitrations.
To put these figures in context, there are 504 members of the Bermuda Bar, of whom 183 are either employed as inhouse counsel, or as Government lawyers, or as Registered Associates, leaving 321 fully qualified Bermuda attorneys in private practice.
That means that there is about 1 professional conduct complaint a year for every 9 Bermuda lawyers in private practice, although the figures are obviously thrown off by the fact that 1 particular lawyer has attracted 5 separate complaints.
It would be interesting to compare this figure with those in other jurisdictions…