Fiji Needs Specialist Lawyers: A-G

There are not many specialist lawyers in Fiji and this is one of the areas in which lawyers can focus on. This advice was from Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum at Fiji
02 Sep 2017 13:03
Fiji Needs Specialist Lawyers: A-G
Fiji Law Society president Laurel Vaurasi and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum at the Fiji Law Society Annual Convention on September 1, 2017. Photo: Office of the Attorney-General

There are not many specialist lawyers in Fiji and this is one of the areas in which lawyers can focus on.

This advice was from Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum at Fiji Law Society’s annual convention where he was invited to deliver the keynote address.

Using the example of Fiji Roads Authority, which has received nearly $600 million as their budgetary allocation, Fiji does not have lawyers specialising in infrastructure whose services are in demand right now.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also talked about the need for lawyers to be marketable.

He said in Fiji only one or two law firms have had the cream of the legal work and almost all the legal work of State owned enterprises.

He said only one or two lawyers were getting all international trademark application work done.

He said these firms knew the markets to target and the reality was that many law firms were not able to think in a business-like manner.

“Now that really should change. The young lawyers have a great opportunity, you are a lot more technological savvy than senior lawyers.

“You should be able to take advantage of that.

“You should be able to place yourself in any particular niche within the economy that would make you attractive.

He also challenged lawyers to contribute to the development of jurisprudence in Fiji.

Issue of professionalism:

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum was approached by two siblings in Sigatoka who informed him that for the past seven years they have paid legal fees to a lawyer’s firm to have their freehold land subdivision done so they could get individual titles.

The two had paid $7000 but to date had not met the lawyer of the firm and had been dealing only with law clerks.

He questioned the lawyers at the convention whether this was professional behaviour and whether this was how a person who had paid $7000 should be treated.

“Forget the fiduciary aspect of this, purely from a business perspective- is that a good business practice?”

“We need to have greater transparency on the billing processes of law firms,” he said.

Need to offer pro bono services:

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also challenged lawyers to put their money where their mouth was.

Certain lawyers in Fiji have had the propensity to speak out about human rights issues but they have not come forward and rostered to provide their service free of charge.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum urged lawyers to make a real difference by providing pro bono service at least once a fortnight.

“A lot of lawyers in Fiji have spoken about, sometimes eloquently and sometimes not so eloquently, perhaps more of the latter at times, about the rule of law, not necessarily understanding the basic principle of what rule of law means.

“They have spoken about human rights. Fundamentally in Fiji, if you look at the discourse on human rights it is generally focussed on civil and political rights for a number of decades to the neglect of socio-economic rights.

“Again there has been a dichotomous approach to rights.

“They both are critically important.”

He explained the situations which could lead to a breakdown of a civil and political situation in any country.

“When we started the pro bono process, very few lawyers from the private sector came forward to be rostered on.”

He was referring to the first hour procedure where a process has been established that any accused who has been arrested should meet with a private lawyer before his or her caution interview is taken so that he or she is well aware of their rights.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum rightly pointed out that very, very few lawyers, especially out of those who were vocal about the rule of law in Fiji have come forward to offer their services free of cost (pro bono) to these accused person in the first hour procedure.

He urged those present at the convention to do so and make a real difference in the lives of people.

Edited by Karalaini Waqanidrola


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