IT would be contrary to the spirit and actual terms of the Legal Profession Act for any lawyer to offer their services for free as suggested in a newspaper report on Monday quoting Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal has said.
Seetahal believes Rowley may not have meant what the headline in Monday’s Express stated.
An article was published in Monday’s Express which read Attorneys should do pro bono work for residents.
It stated that Rowley was calling on the nation’s attorneys to offer services for free to La Brea residents who live on Coffee Beach where clean-up efforts continue after an oil spill reached the shoreline there.
“The only way that that could operate within the confines of the Legal Profession Act is if persons in La Brea who were affected adversely came to various lawyers and asked the lawyers to represent them,” Seetahal said.
“At that point the lawyers could make an informed decision as to whether or not to do the matter pro bono,” she said.
Seetahal said lawyers cannot solicit work and if a lawyer were to approach a potential client that would be a breach of the Legal Profession Act.
“It would be contrary, however, to the spirit and the actual terms of the Legal Profession Act for any lawyer to offer his services for free because it would appear as if he is soliciting business whether for a fee or not,” Seetahal said.
“Soliciting business could be you want to do the case, you want to get the client and then maybe down the line you probably get costs whether or not you are paid for it at the time it could still be solicitation, so that is wrong,” she said.
Seetahal said affected residents should pursue their legal options.
“What should happen if there are people there who are affected and they cannot afford to take the matter and there is a cause of action, in other words somebody is liable, then they could first of all approach the Legal Aid and Advisory Authority which has a whole number of lawyers right now or if it is the terms, the bare means required, is too onerous they can then approach the lawyer of their choice or lawyers and that lawyer would make the decision on an individual basis as to whether or not he or she would represent the client pro bono,” Seetahal said.
Seetahal said many lawyers do work pro bono in deserving cases.