Interviews

Interview With Deidre S. Powell Founder Of The Caribbean’s First Legal Research Website.

Written by Xavier Murphy

What prompted you to start the legal research website, Pcamonline?

During law school, my part time job was working at an insurance company, evaluating claims and making recommendations for settlements. I loved my job, but found that the research process was time consuming and furthermore there was a lack of up-to-date information. I spent a lot of time searching several books for cases on which to rely and I found it extremely time consuming. I also had to update these cases using the consumer price index to come up with the current value of personal injury claims.

This was very frustrating to me as I do not like math and it was a time consuming process to recheck the information to avoid errors.

 

I guess it is out of the above frustrations that PCAMONLINE was born.

What was the main goal?
To provide a fast and efficient way to conduct legal research especially on personal injury and general civil procedure in the Jamaica and with time, the Caribbean region. To also provide a current value of personal injury awards without the need to utilize our calculators. Something that most lawyers treasure as most of us hate math!

How has the response been?
The response is great! The judges who have been utilizing the service have had high praises of the utility of the product. The more “computer savvy” and time conscious attorneys and companies, have also expressed their satisfaction and gratefulness for the product. Of course, there are some people who are intimidated by the use of computers and have not “caught on” to the dynamic nature of the site yet. However, there are further plans to upgrade the site to make it even more user friendly and appealing to all attorneys and insurance companies in the Caribbean region.

Tell me some of the things you have learned since you started the resource?
That the sky is the limit!

What are your thoughts on the Caribbean court?
I’d like to reserve a comment on this question, considering that it’s the topic of my PhD programme. I’m sure I’ll have much to say in a few months.

Name a problem with the current legal system in Jamaica. How would you fix it?
The speed and efficiency with which matters are concluded. That has been a great concern for me over the years. This led to the creation of www.pcamonline.com , which aids in decision making process, in the sense that, research can be conducted in a more timely and efficient manner. I would also like to see the utilization of alternative forms of Dispute Resolution (ADR), which would save on the time and cost associated with litigation. The American system of the “multi-door courtroom”, as recommended by Frank Sander, needs to be properly implemented in our legal system, as it would further promote the work of the Dispute Resolution Foundation.

What high school did you attend?
I’m a proud graduate of Hampton School, Malvern, and St. Elizabeth. My daughter is following my footsteps and will be starting in September 2006.

Where did you attend law school?
University of the West Indies (Cave Hill Campus) and Norman Manley Law School. I am currently pursuing a LLM at Queen Mary, University of London.

What inspired you to get into law?
(Apart from being a “chatter box” as a child and everyone used to nick name me “lawya”) I felt that I could make a remarkable contribution to society by helping to solve some of the problems that face individuals. I saw law as the vehicle, which assists in the fulfillment of my divine purpose here on earth.

Do you see the legal profession in Jamaica embracing the usage of technology to assist with cases?
This is very important as it saves on our human resources. It also facilitates greater accuracy in the solution to crime. We need to encourage more research and development in forensic science and technique as well. The whole world is using technological advances to assist in the solution of crime; we need to invest in this area as well.

I know the rule is never to ask a woman her age so I will say you look young. Is your age an issue with any clients?
No. I’m a professional and act accordingly. Plus, I communicate with ease with people of all ages and I have a particular affection for older people. Hence the reason I often visit the elderly and sit with them to prepare their wills for them. (Most times in exchange for some good Jamaican jokes and stories.)

What challenges you faced starting your own company?
At first it was finding a competent assistant., (I thank Deborah Fraser, who “knows and understands me”.) then it was getting business. However, the challenges have caused me to be more creative.

Fill in the blank ‘If I was not an attorney I would be a …
Diplomat.

Thanks for your time any final thought?
Oh dear, no more I’m off to complete my preparation for my LLM exams. Thanks! Can’t afford to fail!

About the author

Xavier Murphy