In her feature address centred around judicial reform during the church service for the ceremonial opening of the 2019-2020 Law Term, dean of the law faculty at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Prof. Rose-Marie Belle Antoine said that, in her opinion, lawyer fees in the country "are too high".
Antoine also revealed that the lawyer fees in TT are some of the highest in the Caribbean region.
"I wonder if this is partly because, although there has been a fused profession for over three decades, we are still clinging on to the division- instructing attorneys and so on- resulting in two sets of fees, which may not be the case anywhere else in the region," she said.
She explained that there were ordinary citizens out there who also have the right to be heard and to obtain justice "based on the merit of their cases" but are prevented from doing so "simply because it is too expensive".
"We all think that we deserve high fees and high status because after all, we studied hard, we deserve it. However, our ability to demand such an elevated place in society came at a social cost."
She explained that aside from individual lawyers' hard work there were other factors such as student loans, GATE, and collective decisions by the state which contributed to their legal education.
Also speaking to the many deficiencies within the country's judicial system, she said that, along with some of the laws, "remains alienating and inaccessible” which contributes to a public perception that they are biased towards those in society who are socio-economically better off.
She also iterated that reformation was needed within the magistracy and it was “time to bring the magistracy systems into the 21st century”.
Earlier this month, the Judiciary presented an Electronic Court Management Suite to a group of stakeholders called TT.jim. Antoine said this would make strides towards improving the efficiency within their systems and procedures.
However, she cautioned that any benefits derived from the new technological systems would be negated if practices such as unnecessary adjournments and accepting too many cases are continued.
Reporter: Rishard Khan