Silk calls for UK to hire Sierra Leone lawyers

ONE OF the country’s leading human rights silks is calling for UK solicitors firms to hire Sierra Leone’s top lawyers as paralegals or outdoor clerks.
Michael Birnbaum QC, of 9-12 Bell Yard, says the horrendous troubles in the African country have forced many senior members of the Bar and judiciary to flee the country and seek temporary refuge in the UK.
The Revolutionary Front, he says, is wreaking havoc in Sierra Leone, with lawyers and judges being slaughtered. The Solicitor General was recently shot dead when assassins apparently mistook him for the Attorney General.
All the refugee lawyers – including the president of the Bar Association Francis Gabbidon – are highly qualified, according to Birnbaum. Although some have been called to the English Bar, others are desperate for temporary work.
“They wish to return to Sierra Leone when the political situation will allow them to do so, and I do not think there is much chance of them finding chambers prepared to take them as temporary tenants.
“However, it occurred to me that there may well be firms of solicitors who would be able to offer such people temporary employment, for example, as outdoor clerks, or in some other paralegal capacity.”
Birnbaum, a member of the Bar Human Rights Committee and chairman of the Africa Sub Committee of the Bar Council’s International Relations Committee, spent two weeks as a trial observer in Sierra Leone, under the auspices of the United Nations and International Bar Association.