Privy Council to hear law firm dispute

  • Magistrates' Court (File photograph)

    Magistrates' Court (File photograph)

London’s Privy Council will hear a dispute between the Bermuda Bar Council and a law firm that it has refused to recognise.

Walkers Global had set up a licensing agreement with Bermudian firm Taylors to become Walkers Bermuda.

But the Bermuda Bar Council challenged the application on the grounds that it believed the proposed licensing and loan arrangement would result in the company being controlled by non-Bermudians.

The firm has now gone to the Privy Council to determine the proper interpretation of the law.

Walkers Bermuda was incorporated as a local company in 2015, but the Bermuda Bar Council refused to give the company a certificate of recognition.

The Bar Council argued the agreement between the firms would break rules requiring local companies to be controlled by Bermudians.

Walkers Bermuda appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which heard the firm’s sole director and 99 per cent shareholder had Bermudian status, while the 1 per cent shareholder was a member of the Bermuda Bar and holds a permanent residency certificate.

Then Chief Justice Ian Kawaley ordered the Bermuda Bar Council to issue a certificate of recognition to Walkers Bermuda in 2017.

His written judgment said it was “a bridge too far” to say the law prohibited licensing arrangements such as the one proposed.

He added: “It is easy to see that the Bermuda Bar Council would be assisted by legislative support to regulate, either itself or through an appropriate minister, the terms on which foreign legal brands can be used by local professional companies.”

The matter was later brought to the Court of Appeal, who found last May that the Bar Council was “entitled to have serious doubts” about control of the firm.

Their judgment added: “This decision and that of the Bar Council have been based on the material presently before us and it. That does not mean that the position is immutable.”

The Government announced plans to “liberalise” policies to allow international law firms to operate in Bermuda earlier this month.

However, Curtis Dickinson, Minister of Finance, said the new rules would include measures to protect jobs and create opportunities for home-grown lawyers.

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