The Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) is a membership association.  Our funding comes predominantly from membership subscriptions, and our regular programme of conferences and events.

The organisation comprises a governing council, executive committee and a secretariat which is based near the Lincoln's Inn in London. Members of the council and executive committee are representative of the breadth and diversity of the Commonwealth.

Officers of the Association 

CLA has four official officers: 

  • A President 
  • Vice President 
  • Secretary General 
  • Hon. Treasurer

All officers excluding the CEO & SG are volunteers and are subject to election every two years. 

Secretary General (SG)

Secretary General is responsible for the general management of the association and maintaining relationships with all external organisations including the official Commonwealth, and for the general management of the association in consultation with the council and executive. The SG represents the CLA and its President at his/her request attending in his/her absence. The SG is the only full time member of CLA's staff.

The Council

CLA's Council is responsible for the policies of CLA and comprises up to 21 voting members including a President, Vice President, Honorary Treasurer, Immediate past President and representatives of Commonwealth member countries listed below. In addition, the council has three Honorary Life presidents who are non-voting members of the council. There are a small number of other non-voting members such as the immediate past president and the council may also co-opt additional non-voting members for their particular area of legal expertise or where the council has a vacancy in that jurisdiction. These members are listed as 'ex-officio'. Council members meet in person once or (twice a year in conference years) and via teleconference on a regular basis. All members of the council are volunteers. Council members are subject to election by the general membership every two years during the Commonwealth Law Conference. Members are generally nominated by the governing bodies of their jurisdiction. Council members serve for two years but are eligible of re-election. 

The Executive Committee

The Executive Committee are responsible for the day to day business and running of the association. The Executive comprises ten voting members and 'co-opted or ex-officio' members who are non-voting members. Among its members are the Board of Directors for the CLA's company limited. Members include senior working barristers and solicitors based in the Commonwealth. Members meet regularly throughout the year to offer their support and specialist legal knowledge to the association and to consider appropriate projects, interventions, and other general business of the association in line with CLA policies. Members are volunteers. Executive Committee members are appointed by the CLA's council every two years during the Commonwealth Law Conference after the council's election and may serve more than one term of office.

The Secretariat 

The Secretariat, which is based in London, is headed by the association's Secretary General. The Secretariat is responsible for the general management of the association's activities including all projects and all relationships with the official Commonwealth, external agencies and sister organisation in the Commonwealth.

The CLA Council members for the period April 2017 to March 2019 are as follows (in alphabetical order):

President : R Santhanakrishnan (India)

Vice President:  Brian Speers (Northern Ireland)

Secretary General: 

Honorary Treasurer & Company Secretary:  Laurie Watt (England & Wales)

Nene Amegatcher (Ghana)

David Bekker  (South Africa)

David Greene  (England and Wales)

Fiona McLeod SC (Australia)

Peter Maynard  (Caribbean)

Saima Nambinga (Namibia)

Gordon Jackson QC (Scotland)

Vimbai Nyemba  (Zimbabwe)

Laurie Pawlitza (Canada)

Steven Thiru  (Malaysia)

Michael Todd QC (England and Wales) at large

Mark Woods (Australia) at large


Dato Cyrus Das, Hon. Life President  (Malaysia)

Colin Nicholls QC, Hon. Life President  (England and Wales)

Soli Sorabjee, Hon. Life President  

Dr Venkat Iyer - Editor of the Commonwealth Lawyer

Mark Stephens CBE 

KTS Tulsi (India) 

Alexander Ward Immediate Past President

Executive Committee

The Executive Committee is appointed by the CLA council every two years during the Commonwealth Law Conference. Members then elect a Chair from their number. The Executive is appointed for a period of two years from April to March. It meets in London on a regular basis.  The Executive Committee is responsible for the day to day running of the association.

Members or the CLA Executive Committee 2017 - 2019 

R. Santhanakirshnan - CLA President

Brian Speers - CLA Vice President

Laurie Watt - Hon. Treasurer (Chairman)

Secretary General (to be confirmed)

John Almeida

Louise Delahunty

Mia Essien

Ron Heinrich

Mohamed Husain

Mickael Laurens

Jamie Millar

Tim Otty QC

Peter Slinn

Mark Stephens CBE

Alexander Ward - Ex-officio 

Honorary Life Presidents

Throughout CLA's history it has, on three occasions, recognised long service to the Association and the profession. Our honorary life presidents are considered by the membership to be persons who have distinguished themselves in by their commitment and service. 

In 2015, Mr Soli Sorabjee was made Honorary Life President at the General Meeting in Glasgow. Mr Sorabjee's lifetime commitment to the legal profession and defence of the rule of law was unanimously acknowledge by members in attendance.

In April 2009, Dato Dr Cyrus Das was made Honorary Life President of the CLA in recognition of his outstanding service and contribution to the Association over many years. He was presented with the award by the outgoing President, Mr Ron Heinrich, at the Commonwealth Law Conference in Hong Kong. 

In September 2007, Mr Colin Nicholls QC was made Honorary Life President of the CLA in recognition of his outstanding service and contribution to the association over many years. He was presented with the award by the outgoing President, Mr Graeme Mew, at the Commonwealth Law Conference in Nairobi, Kenya.

General Meetings of the Membership

A general meeting of the members is held during the biennial Commonwealth Law Conference, normally at the conference venue. The general meeting is open to all paid up members.  It approves the minutes of previous meetings, receives reports from the Council, and receives the accounts of the CLA, elects members of Council and delegates such authority as it considers necessary to facilitate the work of the CLA. Decisions at the general meeting are made on the basis of general consensus.

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