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:
- 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.
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, 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:
|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|
|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|
|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||Alexander Ward||Australia|
|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:
|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|
|Mark Stephens CBE||England & Wales|
|Genevieve Woods||England & Wales|
|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.