Professionals

Cayman Islands Court System, Constitution and Government

The Cayman Islands are comprised of three islands; Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, covering a total of approximately 100 square miles. The capital, George Town, is located on Grand Cayman.
A substantive amount of the law of the Cayman Islands is based on English common law, with the addition of local statutes. These have, in many respects, adapted the common law, English law and laws of other Commonwealth nations to create legislation which is uniquely suited to the needs of the Cayman Islands. In addition, a number of English statutes have been extended to the Cayman Islands by Orders in Council. The Cayman Islands boasts a strong, well respected bar and judicial system, constantly being advanced to meet the demands of our ever-evolving society. The Courts system in the Cayman Islands practice and procedure is based on English law, but with its own procedural rules. Minor criminal and civil disputes with a value of not more than CI$20,000 are tried by Stipendiary Magistrates sitting in the Summary Court. Serious crimes and complex civil matters (which include the most complex commercial and trust disputes which often arise in respect of Cayman Islands corporate or trust entities) are tried by the Grand Court, which is presided over by the Chief Justice and Grand Court Judges who are permanently resident in the Cayman Islands. Grand Court proceedings may be heard by a judge or judge and jury (at the election of the defendant). Generally, the more serious offences are tried on indictment in the Grand Court. One exception to this is the Summary Court's jurisdiction to try serious drug charges and to impose severe penalties in respect of such offences. Appeals lie from the Grand Court to the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal, which sits in Grand Cayman, and from there to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England. There is currently a separate right of petition to the European Court of Human Rights for people who reside in the Cayman Islands having regard to the extension of the European Convention on Human Rights to the Islands. The procedure of the courts is largely governed by published court rules. Applicable fees and taxation of costs are set out in the court fees and court costs taxation directions respectively. Major court events for each year are recorded in the court calendar. The matters heard in court from day to day are set out in the cause lists.
The Cayman Islands are a British Overseas Territory under the British Nationality Act, 1981 as amended by the British Overseas Territories Act 2002) and as such are the responsibility of the British Government in London, England. For all practical purposes however, the Cayman Islands are governed under the Cayman Islands (Constitution) Order 2009 and the Cayman Islands Constitution (Amendment) Order 2016 (2009 S.I. No.1379 and 2016 S.I.No.780), which gives executive and legislative power to a Governor, the Cabinet and an elected Legislative Assembly. Therefore, the Cayman Islands enjoy a large measure of self-government. The Governor is appointed by the British Government and has overall responsibility for the administration of the Cayman Islands. Government policy is made by The Cabinet consisting of the Premier, six other Ministers, one of who will be Deputy Premier, the Deputy Governor and the Attorney General, ex officio. There are ministerial portfolios and Government departments, staffed by civil servants. Members of the Cabinet each have particular areas of responsibility. The Cayman Islands are entirely responsible for passing their own laws, as the British Government will only intervene in an emergency. Legislation is initiated by the Cabinet and must be passed by the Legislative Assembly, which consists of the Speaker, eighteen elected members and the Deputy Governor and the Attorney General, ex officio. Copy and paste this link for the CBA concise guide to CI constitution written by the CBA student chapter: http://www.constitutionalcommission.ky/the-caymanian-bar-associations-concise-guide-to-the-cayman-islands-constitution?ajax=y&PageNumber=0.

Becoming an attorney-at-law.

The below covers the most common routes to qualifying as an attorney-at-law in the Cayman Islands. It should not be interpreted as an exhaustive list.

Caymanian:

The minimum requirements for applying to the Truman Bodden Law School are that the applicant be at least 18 years of age and have achieved the Standard of General Education; 1. Passes in at least five approved subjects, three of which at a Grade C or above at Ordinary ‘O’ Level and two at Advanced ‘A’ Level; 2. Obtains an associate degree with a GPA (Grade Point Average), which, in the opinion of the Legal Advisory Council, is equivalent to No. 1 above; 3. Obtains SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores that, in the opinion of the Legal Advisory Council, are equivalent to No. 1 above; 4. If 21 years or older, passes the University of Liverpool’s Mature Students Entrance Examination. 5. Obtained an educational standard that is certified by the Chief Education Officer (see schedule 2 (4)). For a more detailed explanation, please refer to Legal Practitioners (Students) Regulations. 2018. Applications and information about the LLB are available from the Truman Bodden Law School (www.lawschool.gov.ky/). There are also many other institutions that offer equivalent law degrees. However, if you decide to pursue a degree in law from another institution, check that it is a qualifying course that covers the subjects as outlined in Part 3 of the Regulations. Further information about details contained herein is available from the Law School. General enquiries should be directed, in the first instance, to the Administrative Officer, Lisa Morales-Levy at: lisa.morales-levy@gov.ky].
People who have received an honours degree in a course other than law, you may be eligible for a conversion course in law, such as the CPE, or the Graduate Diploma in Legal Studies (GDL). While these courses are not taught by Truman Bodden School, they are taught in the United Kingdom. There are also a number of Universities in the United Kingdom that now offer online GDL programmes. The CPE/GDL is an intensive programme and requires great dedication and discipline to cover the seven core law subjects (Contract, Criminal, Tort, Equity and Trusts, Administrative and Constitutional Law, European Union Law, and Land Law) within twelve months. Some course providers also offer the course over a period of two years on a part-time basis. Applications and information about the CPE/GDL are available from the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
The last stage of training involves 18 months of articles with a practicing attorney-at-law. The attorney-at-law responsible for training must have been an attorney-at-law in continuous practice, as a legal practitioner in any Court in the Commonwealth for a period of at least five years. Two of these years must have been spent working in the Cayman Islands. Articled clerks must be registered with the Clerk of the Court after a certificate has been achieved. Only persons who are Caymanian or are otherwise approved by the Cayman Islands Cabinet (for example a person married to a Caymanian) are eligible for articles in the Cayman Islands. Securing articles is the individual's responsibility and it is advisable to apply as early as possible. Placement opportunities are limited and highly sought after, making the process highly competitive. Given the limited annual offerings of these positions within the islands, it is recommended that students commence the application process in their last year of their LLB programme. For those who have not studied a law degree it is advisable to apply before commencing the CPE/GDL (Common Professional Examination/Graduate Diploma in Legal Studies). Judicial clerkship that counts towards the period of articles is available on initial application to CILPA, who will liaise with the Judicial Education Committee for placement.
People who have successfully completed a law degree (LLB) or a non-law degree in conjunction with the CPE/GDL, must then undergo a period of vocational training by completing the Professional Practice Course (PPC) or its equivalent, the Legal Practice Course or the Bar Vocational Course (BVC) in the United Kingdom. The PPC is one year in duration and comprises an intensive, full-time, nine-month period of study in Cayman law and procedure. Courses studied can include, but are not limited to: Cayman Statute Law; Criminal Procedure and Evidence; Civil Procedure and Evidence; Conveyancing; Cayman Succession Law; Legal Accounts; Legal Ethics; and Legal Skills. A dissertation must also be successfully completed which focuses on an area of local law or procedure. Applications and information about the PPC are available here: www.liv.ac.uk/law/cils Details about the Legal Practice Course can be found here: www.lawsoc.org Details about the Bar Vocational Course can be found here: www.barcouncil.org.uk Note: The Legal Practitioners (Students) Regulations (2018 Revision) limits access to the PPC (Reg. 27 relating to the Qualifying Examination taken by the PPC student) and articles (Reg. 16) to Caymanians or people who hold Cayman Status or have been otherwise approved by the Cayman Islands Cabinet (for example a person married to a Caymanian).

Non-Caymanians

This is relevant for foreign counsel wishing to appear in Court as an advocate. An application for limited admission can be made under section 4(1) of the Legal Practitioners Law (2015 Revision) to a Judge of the Grand Court. The Judge has power to admit an attorney-at-law to practice if they have been instructed by an attorney-at-law in the Cayman Islands. A person qualified in the UK or a Commonwealth jurisdiction is, on admission, entitled to practice for the purpose of the matter concerned, but not otherwise. If limited admission is granted, there is no requirement that such person pay an annual practicing fee or otherwise be enrolled on the Court Roll.
People who are not Caymanian or do not hold Caymanian status may be eligible for admission to practice law if they have qualified in The United Kingdom, Jamaica or other Commonwealth jurisdictions recognised as being equivalents, for example, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Admission in these circumstances requires the applicant to obtain an offer of employment from a law firm in the Cayman Islands, which must have also secured a work permit under Part V of the Immigration Law (2015 Revision). The applicant for admission must also have at least three years’ post-qualification experience at the time the application for the work permit is made. The Legal Practitioners Laws and Regulations govern all aspects of training and qualifying as an attorney-at-law. The admission process is governed under section 3(1) of the Legal Practitioners Law, where a Judge of the Grand Court is responsible for hearing applications from eligible candidates for admission to practice law. CILPA is not responsible for, and has no control over, the process of admitting persons to practice law in the Cayman Islands.
Regulation 3 and 4 of the Legal Practitioner (Students) Regulations (2018 Revision) empowers the Truman Bodden Law School, acting by the Legal Advisory Council, to provide a system of legal education, including examinations leading to a Law Degree, a Masters of Laws Degree, a Postgraduate Diploma in International Finance, a Diploma in Legal Practice and an Attorney-at-Law Certificate. The Legal Advisory Council comprises of the Chief Justice; the Attorney General and two members appointed by the President of CILPA; each serving at least ten years to the Cayman Islands Bar.

Career opportunities

A law degree provides flexibility in terms of career choices. Although many lawyers follow the traditional law firm path, others find success as business owners, CEOs and managers at large and small corporations, while others become consultants, writers or forge careers in government.

The process from graduate to trusted advisor, be it partner, sole practitioner or consultant, takes considerable time to establish the credentials and building up the requisite experience and technical competence to perform at this level.

The time from becoming a law student through to articles can take upwards of six years of study and work experience (depending on whether the applicant elects to go the conventional full-time student route or part-time study route). On qualification, progression from Junior to Senior Associate or Senior Counsel may sometimes take around a decade.