Maintaining and promoting the rule of law throughout the Commonwealth.

Our Council

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

All officers excluding the Secretary General are volunteers and are subject to election every two years.

Secretary General (SG)

The Secretary General is responsible for 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 29 voting members including a President, 4 Vice Presidents, Honorary Treasurer, Immediate past President and representatives of Commonwealth member countries listed below. In addition, the council has four 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 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 for 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. Executive Committee members are volunteers and are appointed by the CLA’s council for a period of two years from April to March 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.

CLA Council members for the period April 2019 to March 2021 are as follows:

Jurisdiction Name Country
President Brian Speers Northern Ireland
Vice President Africa Linda Kasonde Zambia
Vice President Americas Peter Maynard Bahamas
Vice President Australasia Steven Thiru Malaysia
Vice President Europe John Almeida England & Wales
Hon. Treasurer Laurie Watt England & Wales
East Africa (Kenya, Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda) Maria Mbeneka Mutua Kenya
Southern Africa (Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, St. Helena, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia) Stacey Bock Namibia
West Africa (Cameroon, The Gambia, Ghana, Sierra Leone) Justin Amenuvor Ghana
South Asia (Bangladesh, British Indian Ocean Territory, Sri Lanka, The Maldives) Currently vacant
South East Asia (Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong) Melissa Pang Hong Kong
South Africa David Bekker South Africa
Nigeria currently vacant
India KTS Tulsi India
Pakistan Hasan Irfan Khan Pakistan
Australia Fiona McLeod SC Australia
New Zealand currently vacant
Canada Robert Lapper QC Canada
England & Wales David Greene England & Wales
Scotland currently vacant
N. Ireland currently vacant
The Caribbean and the Americas (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, The Cayman Islands, Dominica, The Falklands, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos) Bertha Cooper-Rousseau Bahamas
The Pacific (British Antarctic Territory, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Vanatu, Fiji, Soloman Islands, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands, Nauru, Samoa, Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Niue and Tonga) currently vacant President
Europe (Cyprus, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, Malta) currently vacant
at large Trudi Pye Canada
at large Richard Mugisha Rwanda
at large Mark Woods Australia
at large Mark Stephens CBE England & Wales
at large Alex Ward Australia

Ex-Officio:

Jurisdiction Name Country
Hon. Life President Colin Nicholls QC England & Wales
Hon. Life President Soli Sorabjee India
Hon. Life President Dato Cyrus Das Malaysia
Hon. Life President Ron Heinrich Australia
Immediate Past President Santhaan Krishnan India
Journal Editor Dr Venkat Iyer Northern Ireland
Secretary General Brigid Watson England & Wales

Members of the CLA Executive Committee 2019 – 2021:

Name Role Jurisdiction
Brian Speers President Northern Ireland
John Almeida Vice President Europe  England & Wales
Linda Kasonde Vice President Africa Zambia
Peter Maynard Vice President Americas  Bahamas
Steven Thiru Vice President Australasia Malaysia
Laurie Watt Hon. Treasurer & ExCo Chair England & Wales
Santhaan Krishnan Immediate Past President India
Brigid Watson Secretary General  England & Wales
Mickaël Laurans England & Wales
John Mckendrick QC Scotland
Laurie Pawlitza Canada
Mark Stephens CBE England & Wales
Genevieve Woods England & Wales
Mark Woods Australia
Christian Wisskirchen England & Wales

Honorary Life Presidents

Throughout CLA’s history it has, on four 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 by their commitment and service.

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.

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 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 acknowledged by members in attendance.

In 2019, Ron Heinrich was made an Honorary Life President at our Conference. More details to follow shortly.

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.