What is the legal profession all about? : Contemplation for improving the legal system | Sunday Observer

What is the legal profession all about? : Contemplation for improving the legal system

The Conference Committee with the Chief Guest President Mithripala Sirisena and other dignitaries.
The Conference Committee with the Chief Guest President Mithripala Sirisena and other dignitaries.

Why does our society see that the country’s legal system is in crisis? The legal fraternity took time last month to converge the thinking of members of the noble profession of the law to look deep within its fraternal folds for answers as to why society at large seems to view the legal system as having reached a crisis?

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer, Chandaka Jayasundere, Attorney at Law, Chairman, National Law Conference 2017, gave insights into what this year’s National Law Conference focused on and the highlights that can be noted from this premier conference of the country’s legal fraternity.

The theme of this year’s conference was, ‘Contemplatio’ which is Latin for ‘contemplation’. The significance of this particular theme was, as explained by Jayasundere, to converge the thinking of members of the noble profession of the law to look deep within its fraternal folds for answers as to why society at large seems to view the legal system as having reached a crisis? He admitted that all stakeholders agree there is a crisis in the legal system.

The outcomes of the various sessions that took place over the course of the conference dealt with topics related to criminal law, commercial and corporate law, jurisprudence, and matters of social and ethical concerns.

“This year’s conference had a very dynamic approach in presenting the content of various speakers,” the chairman explained, with an enthused pulse in his demeanour as he recollected how the sessions unfolded in the form of debates rather than in the usual form of academic monologues. “It was done for the first time, and based on the concept note prepared for the conference this year,” said Jayasundere .

He elaborated on the method designed to keep the participants engaged to the words and perspectives of the speakers. “A topic can be discussed and argued with opposing views rather than it being a one track discourse. This was the approach adopted and it worked remarkably well,” he said.

An example was, how the topic of the abolishing of capital punishment, a.k.a, the death penalty was argued between the Additional Solicitor General, Yasantha Kodagoda PC, from the Attorney General’s Department and renowned criminal lawyer, Kalinga Indatissa PC, from the Private Bar.

As observed by Jayasundere, one of the hard hitting perspectives brought out by the speaker from the private bar was that our legal system is caught up in a larger system that is innately corrupt, where the act of bribery is only one form of corruption, and therefore, combating financial corruption alone is not the answer, since ‘crony clout’ and the ‘networking system’ have been ingrained in the larger system to the extent that it is accepted as ‘the way the system works’!

The session on jurisprudence (the subject that deals with the law as a science and a philosophy, and its evolution from a point of history) had been in Jayasundere’s own words, a ‘superb session’ where the need for contemplative thought unfolded to seriously look at basic legal precepts and what legal practitioners must keep sight of to answer the question, ‘what is the legal profession all about?’. Another interesting segment of the session was the difference of perspectives between the Bench and the Bar (the judiciary and lawyers) on what factors each looks at when a case brief is viewed. Representing the lawyer’s perspective was the eminent counsel Faisz Mustapha PC and judicial perspective was from retired Supreme Court judge Saleem Marsoof PC.

Among the topics presented in the conference in a dynamic and argumentative method were issues related to– gender based violence, dispute resolution mechanisms, such as, commercial mediation (which has been statutorily established by an Act but not yet operational) and also legal facets relating to condominiums since the sudden rise of high-rise residential complexes has now started to attract considerable concerns in various quarters.

The conclusion was delivered by three erudite speakers on the law, how broad reformations could be undertaken to remedy what has been identified as a grave concern related to the legal system. Speaking on constitutional reform, Dr. Jayampathy Wickremaratne expressed his views. Dr. Dinesha Samararatne presented views on social reform, while ideas on legal reform were put forward by Saliya Peiris.

One of the salient objectives of the conference was to get constructive critical views on the key issue that it sought to address, to be put forward by laymen who would view the law and the legal fraternity. Getting a third person’s perspective after all is invaluable if there is a serious contemplation to properly gauge the malady within, if a workable remedy is to be devised. With that objective in mind, the selection of invitee speakers from outside the legal profession included, Dr. Jehan Perera representing civil society, Eran Wickremeratne MP on the perspective of the corporate sector and Chrishantha Perera a member of the Monetary Board. Jayasundere stressed on Wickremeratne’s perspective that the legal fraternity should not wait for the government to make initiatives to bring about changes to the system, and that lawyers as a professional body should attempt to make initiatives for the changes they require. Jayasundere further noted that the chief guest at the conference, President Maithripala Sirisena, pointed out that many have been talking about the problem for a long time, but no one is doing anything about it.

Confident that the pains borne ensured that a fruitful conference was successfully concluded, Jayasundere said, serious thinking about the manifold dimensions to the problem became visible, and if at least one delegate in attendance at the National Law Conference 2017 begins to seriously think as to what is the ‘norm’ in the legal profession, that can be a step forward to begin addressing the larger problem. And, that outcome alone would be a sufficient reward for all stakeholders. 


Head table at the National Law Conference 2017

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