This mid-term review seminar demonstrates how lawyers in Pacific Island Countries (PICs) play prominent roles in championing law reform, navigating legal pluralism and in the development of robust democratic and civil society institutions, but, to date, there has been little empirical research in the Pacific on the legal profession and its regulation. Through fieldwork in Kiribati, Fiji and Vanuatu, my research seeks to identify key influencers of legal practitioner conduct in PICs and identify pathways to successful reform informed by lawyers, judges, academics, regulators and other law and justice actors.
Legal profession regulators are supposed to protect citizens by ensuring a competent and ethical legal profession. Yet the development of ethical and competent lawyers begins long before an admitting, certification or disciplinary body is even aware of their existence. ¬Governments, courts, professional associations, certification and disciplinary bodies, universities, employers and providers of legal training all play a role in influencing lawyers to practice competently, ethically and in the public interest.
Research published by the South Pacific Lawyers’ Association in 2011 and 2017 identify a number of factors which are likely to negatively impact both the capacity to regulate lawyers and capacity of lawyers to comply in PICs. These reports identified a need for locally-led law reform and the design of systems which ensure adequate resources for statutory bodies to effectively support the legal profession to be competent and ethical. This seminar presents some preliminary findings from my fieldwork in Kiribati, Fiji and Vanuatu on what influences lawyer conduct in practice and seeks to open a conversation on how effective and locally-relevant systems for lawyer regulation in PICs should be designed and operate.
David Naylor has been a Lecturer at the School of Law, University of the South Pacific since 2015. He is currently completing his PhD at the School of Regulation and Governance (RegNet) in the College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University. Until 2015, David worked at the Law Council of Australia as a Senior Policy Lawyer and in other roles within the International Division. His work there included preparing policy briefs and submissions on international issues relevant to the Australian legal profession and coordinating the development and delivery of the Law Council’s International Strategy. From 2008-2014, David was the Administrator of the South Pacific Lawyers’ Association, the peak body for the legal profession in the region and oversaw its development from a concept into a regional organisation representing Law Societies and Bar Associations of all Pacific Island Forum members.