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Friday, 31 October 2014

Law students: How to specialise in an area of law

Q: How do I specialize in a specific area of law?

A: In law school we're taught all of the main subjects, but specializing in one or two areas is a great thing because it makes you a Master in that field. This can be done in 4 ways (all of these are what I did):

v  Do a first degree in your chosen area before doing the Graduate LL.B./G.D.L./C.P.E. (In America I started off doing business… back when Corporate law was my focus, but after moving to London, I identified a niche area to bring back home)

v  Do specific electives during the LL.B./G.D.L./C.P.E. (I finished my business degree and went to law school and began to focus on employment law)

v  Do a Master's degree in the area (I also did modules in Human Rights and Immigration as they both relate to Employment)

v  Focus your legal career on your specific area(s) (I started a boutique consulting firm that focuses only on Employment issues

I don't trust lawyers who claim that they do everything... recently, an employment matter came to me where after taking $40,000 from his clients to send 4 letters, this south lawyer told the clients that he did not know what next to do beyond sending those letters. 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name. 

Any Lawyer can choose to specialize in any of the following areas:
  • Administrative law
  • Advertising law (a real niche that needs someone in Trinidad and Tobago)
  • Animal law
  • Antitrust law (or competition law)
  • Aviation law
  • Banking law
  • Business law (or commercial law); also commercial litigation
  • Communications law
  • Constitutional law
  • Construction law
  • Consumer law
  • Contract law
  • Copyright law
  • Corporate law (or company law), also corporate compliance law and corporate governance law
  • Criminal law
  • Cyber law
  • Employment law 
  • Energy law
  • Entertainment law
  • Environmental law
  • Family law
  • Human rights law
  • Immigration law
  • Insurance law
  • Intellectual property law
  • International law
  • Labour law
  • Land Law
  • Maritime law
  • Military law
  • Juvenile law
  • Music law
  • Patent law
  • Poverty law
  • Privacy law
  • Sports law
  • Tax law
  • Tort law
  • Trademark law

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Public sector v private sector laws

Q: There is a common misconception in Trinidad and Tobago that our laws do not affect the private sector and is only applicable to the public sector.

A: This is an extremely erroneous belief. Contrary to the thinking of many Trinbagonians (based on the high proportion of questions stating this), legislation is actually created to regulate the private sector and in most cases, the public sector (the government) has to have a special provision in the Act stating that the specific law binds the State (public sector/government).

It is very sad when an  employee tells me that they have an issue at work, but nothing can be done because they work in the private sector. There is a high level of ignorance among employees and employers that perpetuates exploitation.

Every law on employment and labour law (industrial relations) is applicable to every private sector organisation. Know your rights!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Trust in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service

Restoring Trust Essential for the Police Service of Trinidad & Tobago by Mark T. Jones 

Policing around the world is under pressure and public scrutiny as never before. The demands on modern policing are such that effective and accountable leadership is essential. All too often management structures are unresponsive and those in senior roles reluctant to embrace change, let alone acknowledge failings and accept responsibility for inadequacies or serious misdemeanors. Many citizens around the world are keen to know precisely what the word ‘Service’ in the title ‘Police Service’ stands for in the modern age.

To citizens of Trinidad & Tobago the story in regard to the continued deterioration of public trust in the Police Service is a familiar one. Whilst there never were Halcyon Days when all was perfect, it is clear that there is a raft of issues and concerns that cannot simply be rubbished in the media, ignored and swept under the carpet. The charge sheet certainly makes disturbing reading:
  • A perceived culture of impunity
  • Anecdotal evidence of collusion with criminal gangs
  • Persistent rumors of extra-judicial killings
  • A total absence in some quarters of courtesy and people management skills and techniques
  • Poor leadership and accountability
  • Increasing signs of corrupt practices
  • Intimidation using threats, verbal aggression and physical assaults
  • Rogue officers demanding sexual favors from both men and women
  • Inadequate fitness standards that sees many officers fall well below acceptable levels for operational efficiency
  • Excessive use of police vehicles that are often driven in an aggressive manner with little or no reason other than to manifest naked power. Sirens and blue lights are routinely used to excess.
  • Defensive management structures that appear to manifest little or no cognizance of the notion of public service
  • A tendency to go for ‘the low hanging fruit’ and ‘the quick win’ as opposed to tackling serious organized crime and those elements at a higher level who are responsible for serious criminality
  • A perceived aversion to investigating white collar crime
  • As a publicly funded institution there is considerable disquiet about the increased politicization of the Police Service.
  • Inadequate training in regards to the current best practice concerning investigation into crimes of a sexual nature, child abuse and various forms of cyber crime. Much could be learnt in this regard by liaising with centers of excellence such as:
  • Racial discrimination – Certain ethnicities appear to receive preferential treatment
A knee-jerk rejection of such concerns would speak volume of the defensive mindset of some in senior roles. In a democracy we ignore perceptions, misconceptions and anxiety at our peril. The issues that various demographics, ethnicities, economic groups and even some political party leaders are prepared to admit (even if in private) deserve to be taken seriously.

It would be utterly erroneous to portray the Police Service of Trinidad & Tobago as in some way irrevocably broken. There are a great many exemplary personnel doing a first rate job often in trying circumstances. It must not be forgotten that the vast majority of officers are imbued by a desire to perform their job in a professional manner, but are occasionally failed by those in roles of responsibility. Conduct and attitude in police stations across the country varies enormously and this is often down to those in charge as well as issues concerning governance, resources, operational priorities and the pressures to massage crime & detection figures. The challenge is to demonstrate that as a public service the police are strong on value and values and low on waste and misconduct. Effective training and the drawing on best practice both locally and in the form of services that share a similar tradition is vital if trust is to be restored. The police must strive to earn the respect of all citizens, and equally the public must never lose sight of the fact that every day police officers put their lives on the line in the quest to keep us all safe and uphold the rule of law. Working to protect and serve with pride is a constant challenge and requires first rate leadership, high morale and the trust and co-operation of the very citizens that the police are expected to serve and protect. If serious progress is to be made in addressing the current ‘trust deficit’ the Police Commissioner and the Minister for National Security will need to redouble their efforts and demonstrate a far firmer grasp and candor concerning current failings. It is also imperative that the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) be given real teeth that it has thus far been denied. A strong case could also be made for the establishment of a specialist Leadership Academy, one that nurtures the core values as well as the humility needed by those called on serve in the 21st century. Finally, in view of the unique role that the Police Service of Trinidad & Tobago plays in working to uphold law and order it is high time that a national monument be erected as a permanent memorial to all police officers who have killed in the line of duty.

The challenge is demonstrating that as a public service the police are strong on value and low on waste demonstrating that as a public service the police are strong on value and low on waste.

30-Apr-2014 - 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

T&T maternity rights: prenatal care

Q: I'm 5 months pregnant and I have been employed with a company for over 4 years now. Due to many complications in my pregnancy, I have to attend clinic regularly. However, my employer refuses to pay me for my clinic days because he’s not familiar with this being law. He even went as far as to get his consultant involved and apparently his consultant does not know about this either. I am beginning to think that I am the wrong one here; am I supposed to get paid for my clinic days or not?

A: Guide your employer to the Maternity Protection Act 1998:
  • 7. (4) An employee who is pregnant and who has, on the written advice of a qualified person, made an appointment to attend at any place for the purpose of receiving prenatal medical care shall, subject to this Act, have the right not to be unreasonably refused time off during her working hours to enable her to keep the appointment.
  • 7. (5) An employee who is permitted to take time off during her working hours, in accordance with subsection (4), shall be entitled to receive pay from her employer for the period of absence.

According to health professionals, reasonable prenatal visits should be:
• Weeks 4 to 28: 1 prenatal visit a month
• Weeks 28 to 36: 1 prenatal visit every 2 weeks
• Weeks 36 to 40: 1 prenatal visit every week

Now, if you’re having complications and your time off is more than this, then you may be hindering the operations of the company, and then I can see the employer having an issue. But that’s another complication by itself.