Gibraltar law firms should draw on local legal expertise when instructing senior barristers for complex cases, Chief Justice Anthony Dudley said yesterday as he appointed two new Queen’s Counsel.
Mr Justice Dudley was speaking during the appointment ceremony of Daniel Feetham, QC, and Guy Stagnetto, QC.
Appointment as a QC is recognition of the highest standard of professional integrity and competence in the legal profession, and is available only to a limited number of senior practitioners.
But the pool in Gibraltar is growing, with applications invited every two years. The appointment of Mr Feetham, a partner in Hassans, and Mr Stagnetto, a partner in TSN, brings the number of local QCs to 22.
Despite this wide pool of talent, many law firms insist on hiring QCs from London to deal with complex criminal and civil litigation cases.
Yesterday, Mr Justice Dudley said this was a practice that should be reviewed.
“Instructing London counsel can’t become the default position,” the Chief Justice told guests at the ceremony.
He urged local lawyers to show “greater will” in instructing home grown ‘silks’, a reference to the silk gowns worn by QCs to differentiate them from junior members of the Bar.
“Increasing our number of silks must serve to reduce our dependence on the London Bar,” Mr Justice Dudley added.
Otherwise, “we have to question the purpose” of appointing additional QCs every two years.
The Chief Justice was echoing a sentiment expressed by Louis Triay, QC, earlier in the ceremony.
Mr Triay is the doyen of Gibraltar’s QCs, described by the Chief Justice as “the smoothest and most artful advocate in the jurisdiction”.
A founding partner of TSN who still works as a consultant, Mr Triay said there was increasingly less need to import specialist QCs given the breadth of expertise and experience available locally.
“We hope law firms will rely on local talent available and instruct local QCs in preference to those from abroad,” Mr Triay said.
The Chief Justice and Mr Triay were addressing a courtroom packed with dignitaries, judges and top lawyers.
Among the guests were the Governor, Lieutenant General Edward Davis; Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, QC; the Mayor and Speaker of Parliament, Adolfo Canepa; the Minister for Health, Care and Justice, Neil Costa; the Minister for Tourism, Commercial Aviation, the Port, Maritime Services and Employment, Gilbert Licudi, QC; and the Attorney General, Michael Llamas, QC.
Sat elbow-to-elbow on one side of the courtroom were Gibraltar’s QCs, the “distinguished members of the jury box”, as Mr Triay put it. On the other side of the courtroom were the Puisne Judges and the Stipendiary Magistrate.
Crammed in the public gallery were family and friends of the new QCs, with not a seat to spare.
Mr Triay spoke about the careers of both new QCs, describing their work in challenging, high-profile cases not just in Gibraltar but abroad too.
He reflected on Mr Feetham’s political career, recalling how the now leader of the GSD was a former Justice Minister who oversaw profound reforms that delivered new courtrooms and a revamped court service, new judges and a deep overhaul of key pieces of Gibraltar’s legislation.
Mr Triay said Mr Stagnetto, whose father he worked with closely for many years, would always be “young Guy” to him, adding that “whatever he engages in, he does well”.
Mr Stagnetto, as the most senior of the two new QCs in terms of length of service, spoke on both their behalf and said the appointments were “a privilege and an honour”.
He reflected on how QCs had a role in ensuring that the local Bar continued to learn and evolve, and was always able to deliver the highest standards of legal practice.
He also recognised the role played by families, who provided support in the face of hefty workloads that placed heavy demands on time.
After the ceremony in the Supreme Court, dignitaries and guests decamped to The Convent, where the Governor hosted a reception and presented Mr Feetham and Mr Stagnetto with Letters Patent of Appointment on behalf of the Queen.
Lt Gen Davis congratulated the two men on their “leadership appointments” and said the rule of law was a crucial element of Gibraltar’s modern development, which meant senior legal practitioners played “a pivotal role in the governance of your nation”.
LOCAL TALENT: Louis Triay, QC, the doyen of the Gibraltar Bar, is pictured above [centre] with Daniel Feetham, QC, and Guy Stagnetto, QC.