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Isle of Man: The Legal Profession

Structure and Regulation of the Profession

The Island's High Court judges are the two Deemsters, who have jurisdiction over all the criminal and civil matters that in England would fall under the High Court, Crown Court and County Court.

The Manx Appeal Court, consists of the Deemsters and the Judge of Appeal, a part-time position filled by an English QC. The final court of appeal is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.

The Island has its own lay magistrates (similar to their English counterparts) and also two stipendiary magistrates (the High Bailiff and Deputy High Bailiff) who also act as coroners of inquest and preside over the licensing court.

Members of the Island's bar are called advocates; they are a fused profession, combining the functions normally carried out by English barristers and solicitors, and following professional standards set by the Isle of Man Law Society.

It has been a long-standing practice for senior English barristers to appear in Manx courts, after being granted a 'temporary advocate's commission', but this trend is now in decline as local expertise in complex litigation cases improves.

To be admitted as a Manx advocate, a person is required to have successfully completed the academic training necessary for admission as a solicitor in England and Wales and the Manx Law Examinations, and to have completed a period of two years' articles (analogous to the English training contract) with a local firm. Manx Advocates may employ, but not enter into partnership with, lawyers qualified in other jurisdictions. The Manx Law Society is, however, currently considering the introduction of multi-qualified partnerships.

Legislation was passed in 1986 allowing law practitioners qualified in other jurisdictions to practice as registered legal practitioners and advise on commercial law and international taxation, but it excludes them from conducting proceedings in Manx courts and certain tribunals or to prepare documents relating to Manx real estate. In effect, local firms have a monopoly on local litigation and property work and as a result only a few foreign law firms have established a presence in the Island, specialising in commercial and offshore private client work.

The admittance and qualifications of lawyers is governed by the Advocates Act 1995 (Part II) which replaces most parts of the Advocates Acts 1826-1976. Further regulations were laid down under the Advocates Regulations 1998, setting out qualification requirements. Sections 15-17 of the 1995 Act allow for the issue of a temporary advocate's licence to non-Manx lawyers provided that:

  • he/she is a member of the Bar of England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland;
  • no Manx advocate is available for the proceedings; or
  • he proceedings require knowledge and experience of a nature not ordinarily available in the Island.
Notaries play an important role in the Manx legal system and are regulated under Part III of the Advocates Act 1995.

Law firms are required to be licensed if giving investment advice. As with the offshore jurisdictions, law firms tend to have associate fiduciary companies and therefore it is common for legal advisers to also act as investment advisers.

However, advocates are exempted from the requirement to be separately licensed by the Financial Supervision Commission in the conduct of investment business by virtue of membership of the Isle of Man Law Society, provided they obtain an appropriate certificate from the Law Society and comply with the Law Society's Investment Business Rules 1993.

In 2012 there were 211 practising Advocates, 23 non-practising Advocates, 6 associate members and 26 student members.



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