JNLC 2014 focuses on ‘Equilibrium - an introspection of the legal profession’

Monday, 1 December 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Radhi de Silva The Junior National Law Conference for 2014 (JNLC 2014), organised by the Junior Bar Committee of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, was held recently. This three-day conference was held at the Amaya Lake Resort in Dambulla with the country’s Chief Justice Mohan Pieris gracing the occasion as the chief guest. JNLC 2014 was entitled ‘Equilibrium - an introspection of the legal profession’ and was inaugurated by JNLC 2014 Chairman Nishan Premathiratne. In his welcome address the chairman explained that the objective of JNLC 2014 was to analyse the present day legal profession in an attempt to make clear to junior lawyers the role and significance of etiquette, ethics, virtues, attire and administrative skills in the legal profession and the duties expected of a lawyer who has been bestowed with the exclusive privilege of being the only authorised individual to represent any person in all courts of law in Sri Lanka and give advice regarding any matter of law. He added that these privileges require all lawyers to maintain high ethical standards and place the public’s interest above their own self‐interest.       The Chief Justice, in his speech mentioned that from its inception the Junior National Law Conference has provided a steady platform for sensitising the Junior Bar to the challenging opportunities and exciting avenues in the profession and this year’s conference should prove no exception to this tradition. The Chief Justice added that the organisers of JNLC 2014 deserve their plaudits for such an excellent gathering of young and impressionable professionals whose talents and skills will form the backbone of our profession in the times ahead. The Bar Association played a major role in assisting the Junior Bar Committee to organise the JNLC and Bar Association President Upul Jayasuriya was also invited to grace the occasion. In his speech, Jayasuriya emphasised the importance of continuing legal education in the professional lives of lawyers young and old and further stated that it was important for professionals to keep abreast with the changes in law and understand them while implementing and enforcing the same. The Junior Bar Law Journal, Volume 5 was launched at the inauguration ceremony of JNLC 2014 by its editor Vasanthakumar Niles. Of the many interesting articles featured in this year’s journal, Justice Salam has written a hard-hitting message titled ‘Professional duties, ethics and etiquette of lawyers’. Two international contributions exclusively provided for this journal, titled ‘The development of common law in the light of evolving South African constitutional jurisprudence’, which provides a South African perspective of Roman Dutch Law, its development and its comparison with Sri Lankan jurisprudence and ‘Moving frontiers of Fundamental Rights: an analysis of the Constitutional approach in India and Sri Lanka’, which provides an Indian perspective on fundamental rights and the bond it shares with Sri Lanka in this important area of the law. The vote of thanks was delivered by JNLC 2014 Co- Secretary Vishwa de Livera Tennekoon, who thanked the guest of honour, invitees, guest panellists, sponsors for JNLC 2014 and participants of the conference. Professional ethics and responsibilities Upon the conclusion of the inauguration ceremony a forum theatre play was conducted and the motif for this forum theatre was based on Justice Dr. A.R.B. Amerasinghe’s book ‘Professional Ethics and Responsibilities of Lawyers’. The dramatic skit was based on the story of a junior lawyer who is faced with a variety of ethical challenges to his practice and conduct. Chandana Liyanapatabendi P.C. elaborated and reflected on the process of this form of theatre and the audience was encouraged by the moderators to find solutions to the situations presented in the dramatic skit using real-life, believable ‘interventions’ in the drama, either by way of replacing characters or introducing new ones to the storyline, which was indeed quite thought provoking and useful in teaching junior lawyers to adapt to such scenarios in their legal practice. The academic sessions were conducted on the second day of the conference where the panellists for the academic sessions comprised Dr. Harsha Cabral P.C., Kushan de Alwis P.C., Chandaka Jayasundera, Geetani Athurupane and Krishna Ramachandra (overseas delegate) for corporate/commercial law; Civil Appellate High Court (Colombo) judge Lyone Senevirathne, Ali Sabri P.C. and Kuvera de Zoysa P.C. for civil law; M. A. Sumanthiran and J.C. Weliamuna for public law; and Anil Silva P.C. and U.R. de Silva for criminal law. A session on ‘Harassment of Women at the Workplace’ was also conducted where participants were able to discuss the topic in detail along with its impact and come up with possible solutions. The next event on the agenda was the Junior Bar Forum, which was the continuation of the inaugural Junior Bar Forum which was organised by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka a few months ago and provided a platform for vibrant and capable young lawyers from around the country to convene and participate in an interactive discussion with an eminent panel of speakers consisting of the Chief Justice, the Attorney General, the Secretary to the Ministry of Justice, the Inspector General of Police and the BASL President which discussed issues faced by junior attorneys-at-law in Sri Lanka. The Junior Bar Forum at the JNLC 2014 was held with the purpose of discussing and reflecting on the deterioration of ethical standards and core values within the legal profession and the steps to be taken to restore it to a point where it can regain the respect and reverence of the community and sustain its status as the pivotal constituent in the administration of justice and the maintenance of the rule of law. The topics discussed at the forum were: the preservation of the core values and ethical standards of the legal profession and the role of lawyers and legal professionals in uplifting the standards and standing of the profession and legal aid and pro bono work by lawyers and the level of responsibility of the junior lawyer to be involved in the same. The panel at the forum at the JNLC 2014 consisted of the Chief Justice, the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, Secretary to the Ministry of Justice, Kamalini de Silva, Additional Solicitor General Suhada Gamlath and consultant lecturer on Professional Ethics at Sri Lanka Law College, Upali Jayatilleke. On the third and final day of the conference, two parallel sessions were conducted on ‘Court Craft and ‘Research Techniques and Submissions’. At the ‘Court Craft’ session, participants were made to engage in role-play, depicting situations that arise in a courtroom environment and learn skills that are vital in court in themes such as ‘the art of cross-examination’, ‘how to be persuasive’ and ‘effectively addressing the bench’. The distinguished panellists at this session were Kanag-Isvaran P.C., Geoffrey Alagaratnam P.C. and Avindra Rodrigo. The session on ‘Research Techniques and Submissions’ was conducted with a panel consisting of Supreme Court judge Buwaneka Aluwihare and Mr. Sivendran, which discussed research techniques, methods and submission techniques and tips, particularly with regard to written submissions. The research component of this session had a dual purpose since it covered aspects relating to academic research methods in relation to law reform and legal writing in different forums and also featured a discussion on methods of research, sources for research, citation methods and general dos and don’ts. The Personality and Capacity Development Session entitled ‘Recipe for Success’ was held at the JNLC, and was aimed at inspiring and instilling in the young lawyers a sense of confidence essential to keeping up with the fast-changing world. The session addressed the fact that being a great lawyer is simply not enough to meaningfully differentiate oneself from another and that professional and personal success is dependent upon effectively educating others about oneself and in establishing credibility and trust with others. Recipe for success The session titled ‘Recipe for Success’ consisted of two segments with the respective panels consisting of leading personalities from Sri Lanka who were able to guide the young practitioners at the JNLC. The distinguished panellists of the first segment of the session consisted of chairperson of the session, Dr. Harsha Cabral P.C., former national cricketer Aravinda de Silva, Vice President Legal Affairs and General Counsel at Etihad Airways, Senarath Liyanage, Chairman of Laugfs Holdings Ltd., W.K.H Wegapitiya, Triad Ltd. Jt. Managing Director Varuni Amunugama Fernando and Pan Asia Bank Chairman Nimal Perera while the panel for the second segment consisted of Corporate law Counsel and Director of Colombo Stock Exchange, Hiran de Alwis, Partner F.J. & G de Saram, Ayomi Aluwihare Gunawardene and Head of Legal, John Keells Holdings, Dilani Alagaratnam. The Junior Bar comprises all attorneys-at-law of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka who are members of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and have not completed 10 years of practice. At present there are approximately 7,000 members of the Junior Bar who are professionally engaged in various spheres of law. The Junior Bar Committee of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka has been specifically mandated with the task of “uplifting the standards of the legal profession vis-a-vis the junior practitioner” and the primary objectives of the Junior Bar Committee are to harness the time and skill of junior lawyers for social causes, organise junior lawyers into a more cohesive network, prepare junior lawyers to meet the challenges of an evolving profession, empower junior lawyers in the outstation bars and encourage the research and writing skills of junior lawyers. With the aforementioned objectives at hand, the Junior Bar Committee appears to have achieved these objectives by organising this year’s Junior National Law Conference and hopes to garner further success in the years to come. The main sponsor for JNLC 2014 was USAID while other key sponsors for the event were the Ministry of Justice supported by the United Nations Development Programme and The Asia Foundation.