Territorial At-Large Representative Neville ‘Sheep’ Smith has called out some local law firms he said are treating expat attorneys better than local attorneys.
Smith said expat attorneys are given priority for top jobs and more attractive packages while local attorneys are often told they aren’t qualified.
“We cannot afford to let other lawyers come here and overshadow our lawyers when they have the same qualifications. We keep saying we want our people to work and do things but we have to back them. We have to create some ways these lawyers could get the same benefit that expat lawyers are getting. When these lawyers come here, they come to get experience from us and most times they leave and go on to open their own law firms,” Smith explained.
He said some local firms are overlooking local lawyers and are recruiting from the Caribbean and the UK; using the excuse that local lawyers don’t have the experience.
“We have to do something about it. I saw a lawyer who was given a scholarship to go abroad and do her Masters and she went to get study leave and she didn’t get it. But another expat lawyer asked for study leave and got it. That isn’t right. Those are the kinds of things that are happening to our lawyers,” Smith revealed.
The BVI’s financial services industry attracts a lot of lawyers from around the world. But Smith said more needs to be done to create a level playing field where local attorneys are protected and given the same opportunities as their expat colleagues.
“I’m not saying the lawyers who come here don’t deserve to get something, but lawyers here also deserve something as well. I’m not going to sit here in this Honourable House and watch while we send our people to be educated and when they come back they play second fiddle to anyone else,” Smith said.
-led administration has been urging employers to recruit locally since the start of their term. However, the appetite for expat talent remains rich in the BVI, as some imported talents draw lower compensation packages while others are thought to have more experience to fill the gaps in the local market.