Is a ca­reer in law still eco­nom­i­cally vi­able?

Jamaica Gleaner - - GROWTH & JOBS - Sashakay Fair­clough Gleaner Writer

AS A bar­ris­ter and at­tor­ney in train­ing, I am well aware of the dif­fi­cult job sit­u­a­tion fac­ing me and my peers when we leave the Nor­man Man­ley Law School. In 2016, law is still one of the most pop­u­lar pro­fes­sions in Ja­maica. I of­ten watch the faces of the stu­dents I men­tor light up when they proudly de­clare their wishes to be­come at­tor­neys. Gen­er­ally, I would query if any­one had stud­ied the cur­rent economic cli­mate or had even spo­ken to prac­tis­ing at­tor­neys to see if a ca­reer in law is still eco­nom­i­cally vi­able in 2016. You can guess the re­sponses to that.

No longer is there a guar­an­tee of a high start­ing salary or even a job for law grad­u­ates; and with talk of an in­crease in com­pet­i­tive­ness be­cause of sat­u­ra­tion and high un­em­ploy­ment, many peo­ple are won­der­ing if the le­gal pro­fes­sion is still worth the money and time it takes to study.

Court­ney M. Wil­liams, a part­ner at prom­i­nent law firm Dun­nCox, has no­ticed the change in the pro­fes­sion since he was called to the Bar in 2007.

“I am not cer­tain of the sta­tis­tics, but I do be­lieve that the num­ber of grad­u­ates from law school has in­creased rel­a­tive to when I was called to the Bar. What is ev­i­dent is that more lawyers are in the sys­tem and I have en­coun­tered an in­creas­ing num­ber of re­cent law grad­u­ates who can­not find employment. When I grad­u­ated, many of my col­leagues had one or two choices of employment.”

Real es­tate at­tor­ney Robert J. Tay­lor, pro­pri­etor at law firm Tay­lor­law, agrees that there is some over­crowd­ing but be­lieves that there are still op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able for those will­ing to go out­side the norm.

“Op­por­tu­ni­ties re­main for prac­ti­tion­ers and law firms who in­no­vate and rein­vent the way the law is prac­tised and ser­vice de­liv­ered. If we first recog­nise that the prac­tice of law has a busi­ness and cus­tomer ser­vice com­po­nent, then I be­lieve that there will be op­por­tu­ni­ties for sole prac­ti­tion­ers and firms to be vi­able, de­spite the in­crease in num­bers.”

De­spite the over­crowd­ing, the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor of the le­gal in­dus­try con­tin­ues to grow at an as­ton­ish­ing pace, but new ar­eas of prac­tice are loom­ing.

For­mer Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Ar­naldo Brown ac­knowl­edges that there has been tremen­dous growth within the past 10 years.

NEW AR­EAS OF PRAC­TICE

“Mona now of­fers the law pro­gramme in its en­tirety, and UTech has added a fac­ulty of law. There are cor­re­spon­dence un­der­grad­u­ate law pro­grammes as well. There are new and emerg­ing ar­eas of prac­tice ... for ex­am­ple, in the field of com­merce, com­pa­nies seek­ing to list on the ju­nior stock ex­change re­quire le­gal ser­vices. Com­pa­nies such as Future Ser­vices Lim­ited have ex­panded the abil­ity of per­sons to se­cure le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion is cases like per­sonal in­jury and other such types of cases, where a con­tin­gency ar­range­ment would be war­ranted or the par­ties set­tle pay­ments upon the suc­cess­ful out­come of a case.”

Al­though the at­tor­neys ad­mit that there are chal­lenges within the in­dus­try, they be­lieve that the ben­e­fits out­weigh them.

“Our pro­fes­sion has had an on­slaught of neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity in re­cent times, which I be­lieve ac­counts for the im­age of at­tor­neys-at-law be­com­ing in­creas­ingly tar­nished of late. This is some­thing that we are aware of as a pro­fes­sion and are try­ing as­sid­u­ously to cor­rect, led by our ca­pa­ble Bar As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent,” said Wil­liams. “How­ever, as an at­tor­ney, I have al­ways liked the feel­ing of be­ing able to con­trib­ute to the res­o­lu­tion of le­gal prob­lems in peo­ple’s lives. There is a strong sense that as a lawyer, you are able to con­trib­ute to the over­all de­vel­op­ment of so­ci­ety and help to cre­ate a sense of or­der and peace, which is a nec­es­sary cog in the wheel of a sus­tain­able pat­tern of growth.”

RE­DUC­ING STAMP DUTY

Tay­lor be­lieves the slow pace of economic growth se­ri­ously im­pedes the le­gal pro­fes­sion and be­lieves a re­duc­tion in stamp duty and trans­fer tax would be ben­e­fi­cial.

“This would not result in a loss of tax rev­enue, as the num­ber of real es­tate trans­ac­tions would sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease as more first-time buy­ers and in­vestors would be able to en­ter the mar­ket, with the result of an in­crease in the hous­ing stock and sec­ondary-mar­ket trans­ac­tions.”

Brown en­joys the flex­i­bil­ity and util­ity of the pro­fes­sion but be­lieves that the back­log of cases and at­ten­dant de­lays is an im­ped­i­ment to jus­tice in Ja­maica. He also be­lieves that there needs to be an im­prove­ment to the ar­chaic in­fra­struc­ture.

Asked what ad­vice they would give to young lawyers who can­not se­cure employment, each at­tor­ney had a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.

Wil­liams en­cour­ages them to keep the faith and to con­tinue their search while oc­cu­py­ing their free time pro­duc­tively. Ar­naldo Brown be­lieves un­em­ployed new grad­u­ates should try to hang their own shin­gles, or join with a col­league and work to­gether. On the other hand, Tay­lor wants them to think hard if this is the pro­fes­sion they re­ally wish to be in. He be­lieves that if all else fails, they should try prastis­ing in an­other ju­ris­dic­tion or ap­ply­ing to a pri­vate-sec­tor com­pany or the Gov­ern­ment.

TAY­LOR

WIL­LIAMS

BROWN

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