New ‘silk’ mulls easier legal aid, contingency fees

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Ravindranath Nanga –

ATTORNEY Ravi Nanga said he wants ordinary people to financially have easier access to justice and made two suggestions on how to do so.

He was speaking to Newsday on Sunday when asked his response to him being on a list of attorneys due to receive senior counsel or “silk” status in a ceremony at President’s House on Monday.

“It is a very humbling experience,” he said on the award.

“It is always very humbling to know that those who are at the head of your profession recognise your abilities.”

Nanga paid tribute to senior colleagues who had helped mould him, including Douglas Mendes, SC, Russell Martineau, SC, Martin Daly, SC, Elton Prescott, SC and Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC.

“They gave me my grounding in the law.”

He saluted retired justices of appeal Gregory Smith and Vasheist Kokaram, plus former minister Anthony Jacelon and current colleague Neil Bisnath.

Reflecting on them, he said, “I have always been very fortunate in my career.”

“I observed them. The kind of qualities they have, I sought to emulate these qualities.”

Asked about his proudest achievement, Nanga recalled saving an elderly woman from being put out of her home.

Reflecting on the personal satisfaction that had given him, he said, “I don’t think you could measure something like that in monetary terms.

“She would have hugged me with tears streaming down her eyes. I think, what more do you really want to achieve as an attorney?

“You want to make a difference in people’s lives.”

He said when attorneys study, they read textbook cases but may forget these were cases from real life.

“These are problems people had and went to attorneys to solve.”

Nanga said as a young attorney, he had gone for a case to the Privy Council, whose judgement had recognised the quality of his submission, a citation still close to his heart.

Newsday asked about his hopes for the future.

He said his hope for the profession was a stop in the declining standards whereby an attorney was recently criminally charged while noting cases of attorneys sent to a disciplinary committee amid complaints by their clients.

“You see people not living up to their duties. I hope as a senior that I would help to guide these young ones and improve the quality of the profession.”

Newsday asked about ordinary people’s affordability of access to justice, such as easier access to legal aid, which now seems limited to the destitute.

Nanga said, “If the average person does not have access to the courts, then you would have a breakdown in society.

“Legal aid, like you said, I am not quite sure when the act was last looked at in terms of people qualifying for access to legal aid but perhaps it is time to review that.

“Additionally, there is something called contingency fees, which is prohibited in TT, but the powers that be may want to look at that.

“This is where an attorney is prepared to take your case on a contingent basis – only if they are successful would they be able to charge you. I don’t know if those things are probably things worth looking into.”