Trinidadian Rondelle Keller, 26, and Barbadian Maria Collins, 47, are the latest attorneys-at-law to be admitted to the Guyana bar.
Both attorneys, who graduated from the Legal Education Certificate (LEC) programme of the Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS) in October, and have been admitted to the bars of their respective jurisdictions, were admitted to the local bar on Friday afternoon. Collins has also been admitted to the Trinidad and Tobago bar, before which both of them currently practice.
The attorneys’ applications were moved by Teni Housty, President of the Bar Council of the Bar Association of Guyana, who appeared in association with Keoma Griffith, Assistant Secretary of the Bar Council. Housty noted that Griffith, who is friends with Keller, was instrumental in facilitating the necessary undertakings which culminated in Friday’s admissions.
The applications were heard by Justice Sandra Kurtzious.
Observing that both Keller and Collins have distinguished themselves in various ways, Housty said he felt honoured and privileged to bring their applications.
Keller, 26, is the best HWLS graduating student for 2019, having copped nine prizes during his two years at the institution. He was the only student awarded the Certificate of Merit, having obtained nine A grades in the 11 examinable courses during the programme. The Certificate of Merit is the school’s highest award.
Keller was also awarded the Council Prize for being the most outstanding student over two years, the Anand Ramlogan Prize for the best performance by a student from Trinidad and Tobago, and the Chairman’s Prize for his performance in Evidence and Forensic Medicine, Law of Remedies, and Civil Practice and Procedure II.
Additionally, Keller and his teammates received a prize for representing the HWLS at the 23rd Annual Stetson International Environment Moot Court Competition in Florida, where he was adjudged the fourth-best speaker overall. Keller picked up four additional prizes during his first year at the HWLS.
Meanwhile, Housty noted that Collins has distinguished herself through her exploits regionally in the areas of trade and telecommunications.
Collins was the first female Country Manager for PriceSmarts at the age of 27. She also opened, and was a stakeholder in the first off-pier shipping facility in Barbados, and was involved in many entrepreneurial ventures. In her spare time, she sold computers, and 20 and 40-feet containers. Collins was also involved in various start-ups in the region which still operate successfully. These include Laparkan and Aeromarine.
Both attorneys, Housty said, now bring their experiences and knowledge to make contributions to Guyana.
Justice Kurtzious said she was heartened to hear and grant the applications of the attorneys. The judge advised them to take opportunities to network, counseling that networking is important in the profession, especially for attorneys who aspire to practice across the region. Kurtzious also observed that as a region with similar cultures, the Caribbean is plagued by similar issues, including gender issues such as domestic violence. She said that cross-border networking and collaboration is one of the ways the region can seek to address these problems.
Kurtzious also took note of the intention behind the promulgation and ratification of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and the creation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), saying that the decision by the attorneys to be admitted to Guyana’s bar “speaks to where we should be going.”
She said, “Our countries are facing the same issues but sometimes we lose sight of that and what CSME means seems to be lost on us.”
Kurtzious, while smiling, fondly recalled that at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Faculty of Law, there are culture nights which depict the cultures of various Caribbean countries. “We absolutely need persons to leave their homeland and adopt other places as their homes, because we are one culture,” she said.
Noting that both Keller and Collins are scheduled to leave Guyana soon, the judge said, “Whether you stay for an extended period, it does not matter because I know you are coming back.”
Collins, who shared that she counsels suicidal youth in her spare time, in giving the customary applicant’s address on behalf of Keller and herself, said that despite their age difference, they share many commonalities, including a conviction about the importance of remaining humble, and giving back to the community.
Collins noted the recent visit by Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley, QC, to Guyana to create a strategic alliance which has the potential to bring many benefits. She said that there are several areas in which there can be collaboration to address issues such as reducing the high cost of inter-Caribbean travel, trade agreements, and improvements in agriculture.
Collins also shared that it was admirable that Keller, who came from humble beginnings, was able to achieve as much as he has at his age, and added that though her beginnings were not as humble, she too faced challenges in completing her legal education.
The attorney added that both she and Keller hope to ultimately make positive contributions to Guyana, and the Caribbean Community through their exploits.