Litigation Considerations

mcleansIn The Turks & Caicos Islands
By Tim Prudhoe, McLeans International Attorneys.

No right-minded client comes to these beautiful Islands with the intention of becoming a party to litigation. The Turks & Caicos Islands are no different than the rest of the world –in that everyone hates the litigation attorneys . . . until, that is, they need one.

Sadly, however, such a need can, and does, arise.

If and when it does, you can be left facing the possibility of expensive and lengthy litigation with a need to know what resources exist to assist you in your plight.

Given that you need to be aware of such unsavory possibilities, the question arises as to whether a relatively small jurisdiction has competent professionals to turn to. Far from there being insufficient numbers of high quality attorneys, and unlike other parts of the Caribbean, we can be justifiably proud of the strength of our litigation Bar: in which Turks & Caicos Islanders continue to play a major role.

A strong and competitive market amongst competent professionals should rightly be taken as a reassuring sign, rather than as a cause for alarm amongst the general populace. Recent appointments to Queen Counsel of prominent Turks & Caicos Islander attorneys in private practice further endorse the forward momentum of our jurisdiction. In addition, many view as beneficial the further experience that overseas attorneys bring to the jurisdiction, given that five years post-qualification experience is a mandatory requirement for any overseas lawyer seeking admission to the Bar of the Turks & Caicos Islands.

When the founding Partner of my firm, McLeans, Art Bishop, arrived on Providenciales in 1976 there were simply no litigation attorneys to be found. The period since then has seen a significant growth in numbers with most firms offering one or more litigation attorneys.

An important consideration is strength in depth: what happens when the lawyers handling your case are away from the Islands? Will there be someone sufficiently experienced available within that firm able to properly protect your interests at all times? Does your litigation attorney have sufficient commercial perspective to know when discretion is the better part of valour and a contested hearing may not be in your best interests?

Given that the law here is based on (and largely follows) the Common Law system of England and Wales, satisfy yourself as to whether your prospective attorney has ever worked there. If so, when and what links does he or she retain as a potential point of specialist consultation and advice on short notice?

Does your litigation attorney have corporate and commercial colleagues to help him or her attain that wider perspective on your particular circumstances? Be wary of any attorney whose first advice in a case is to complain about another attorney. Ask yourself whose interests are being best served: are you paying for old scores to be settled?

It is also extremely important to fully understand, in advance, the fee arrangements for any work to be undertaken by a litigation attorney. We are self-regulated by the Bar Council, and to whom you should feel able to voice any concerns regarding either the performance or billing practices of any attorney(s).

Having the above in mind at the time of your approaching a litigation attorney for representation will ensure a good working relationship. As inhabitants of these Islands, we are all fortunate in our judiciary. In 1844, the Chief Justice was paid 260 pounds, 8 shillings and 4 pence per year. As many of you will appreciate, the cost of justice has risen somewhat in the intervening period.

With the assistance of the British Department for International Development, we have a fully staffed judiciary. The English-trained Chief Justice, Richard Ground, has been living and working in the Caribbean since 1983 (Crown Counsel, Attorney General’s Chambers, Cayman Islands), held senior positions as a practicing attorney (Attorney General, Cayman Islands 1987-1992) and has been a full-time judge for over ten years (Supreme Court Judge, Bermuda 1992-1998, Chief Justice Turks & Caicos Islands 1998 onwards).

As a recent innovation, both Grand Turk and Providenciales each have their own Resident Magistrate, (Kwasi Bekoe in Grand Turk and Richard Williams in Providenciales), such is the current volume of work. Like other parts of the Caribbean, we have a Court of Appeal that visits bi-annually. Recent recommendations to the former Governor (Report of the Constitutional Modernisation Review Body, September 2002) included the suggestion that the Court of Appeal should visit more often. Beyond the Court of Appeal, appeal lies to the Privy Council, sitting in London, England.

As one of the potential pitfalls of investment in the Islands, the possibility of litigation must be acknowledged. However, with the right approach and an appreciation of the need for any litigation attorney to have a proven track record, this potential danger can be minimized (often in advance) and your interests properly protected at a reasonable cost and in proportion to the value of what it at stake. With that task accomplished, you can get on with enjoying what it was that brought you to the Islands in the first place.

Tim Prudhoe is Joint Managing Partner of McLeans, a full service law firm based in Providenciales. Tim practises predominantly in the field of commercial and civil litigation. Tim is dual qualified as an Attorney (Turks & Caicos Islands) and as a Barrister (England and Wales). Tim has been in practice in the TCI since 2000 and remains the youngest overseas attorney in this jurisdiction.

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Lynn McMahan
Jan 13, 2016 21:23

Dear Sirs,

We would like to explore retaining your firm to fight the foreclosure of a piece of property we purchased in the Turks by the Belize Bank.

We have requested a full accounting of the loan since its inception in 2003 but we have failed to receive the complete information despite numerous requests. They have forwarded the loan history from 2012 onward – omitting much of the requested information. This puts us at a disadvantage since our potential investors are requiring the statements since the loan’s inception in 2003.

Belize Bank is in the process of a forced sale which we want to contest. We owe them $3.3 M on property which appraises for more than$12.5 M. Once developed the project will be worth more than $25 M.

Please call us to discuss our options and the benefits of using your law firm.

Thank you…

Lynn McMahan
312 598-2003
John McMahan
312 498-2008

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