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New Bar Council head hopes to bring back right to QC status

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Bermuda Bar Council elected members: honorary secretary Karen Williams-Smith, president Justin Williams and vice-president Richard Horseman (Photo by Mark Tatem)

The new President of the Bermuda Bar Council has put the re-establishment of Queen’s Counsel status on the agenda.Bermudian barrister Justin Williams, elected to the position at the legal fraternity’s governing body’s annual general meeting last Wednesday, said he has several immediate goals including the exploration of the reintroduction of the prestigious designation, which allows barristers to add the initials QC after their name and to ‘take silk’ — a reference to the special silk gown they may wear in court. They are also often called ‘Silks’.Mr Williams explained: “In 1994 Bar Council decided to revoke the Bermuda Bar (Queen’s Counsel) Rules 1988. This matter continues to be a topic of discussion among the members of the bar. Bar Council is considering reopening the process for local attorneys to apply for Queen’s Counsel status.”Membership exists in various Commonwealth jurisdictions around the world.Mr Williams said he has a series of immediate aims for his term in office, which are:n Consider the implementation of conditional or contingency fees, thus ensuring the availability of access to justice to all members of the community;n Seek to provide all returning Bermudian law graduates with opportunities for pupillages with local law firms, which are necessary for admission to the Bermuda Bar to become a qualified barrister and attorney;n Study potential amendments to the Bar Act in relation to Registered Associates working abroad;n Consider recommending the availability of more notaries to the public;n Examining the possibility of re-establishing the right to Queen’s Counsel status in Bermuda.The new Bar Council President was called to the Bermuda Bar in 1989, and is a civil and commercial litigator. He acts as magistrate, coroner and chairman of family court. He served as an Acting Puisne Court judge in 2004.He replaces well-known lawyer Delroy Duncan, who led the Council for two years before stepping down from the role.Another leading litigator, Richard Horseman, was elected vice president at the AGM, and Karen Williams-Smith, who practices in the field of matrimonial law, is the honorary secretary.The new President paid tribute to his predecessor saying: “Delroy was responsible for many important initiatives.“To name but a few: the policy whereby the public have access to Court of Appeal transcripts; instituting the statutory framework relating to the anti money laundering regime for barristers; and the requirements for barristers and attorneys to hold professional negligence insurance.“He also brought into fruition the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Criminal Pupillage Award which is now in its fifth year. Under Delroy’s leadership, Bermuda continued to develop its high standing as a preferred centre of excellence for legal services, financial service and dispute resolution.”Mr Williams added for more than 12 years he has been an ‘invaluable’ member of the Bar Council, and served as the honorary secretary and vice president before his two-year period as president.“For several years, Delroy also served as a member of the Professional Conduct Committee,” and said: “I would like to personally thank Delroy for his lengthy and dedicated service.”The other elected members of the Bar Council are Christian Luthi, Elizabeth Christopher, Barclay Simmons, Alison Dyer-Fagundo, Cindy Clarke and Mark Chudleigh.

New Bermuda Bar Council president Justin Williams (Photo by Mark Tatem)