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AG’s office looks to Samoa to recruit Samoan attorneys

Governor Lolo M. Moliga supports the move by the Attorney General’s Office to recruit lawyers from Samoa, says Attorney General Afoa L Su’esu’e Lutu, who confirmed with Samoa News they are currently recruiting attorneys from the Independent State.


Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop who responded to Samoa News queries noted that they are looking at hiring attorneys from Samoa who are law graduates from accredited law schools in Australia and New Zealand. She noted that the AG’s office will not hire attorneys, who have laws degrees from Fiji law schools, but did not elaborate.


Jessop said, “Apia has a higher concentration of Samoan attorneys than anywhere else in the world.” Samoa News asked if the AG’s office will still be hiring from the mainland and Deputy AG Jessop responded, yes, they are still recruiting from the Mainland as well.


“We are just expanding the area in which we are recruiting,” the Deputy AG said.


She added this also strengthens ties between the two Samoas, and Samoan attorneys can literally relate to the Samoan people because we are of the same race, culture and tradition. Jessop also told Samoa News that the AG’s office does not have an exact number of how many attorneys they are looking at recruiting and noted that salaries will be dependent on the applicant's qualifications and experience.


“Generally we hire anywhere from between $40k to $50k depending on experience.” Jessop was quoted in the Samoa Observer that she wants Samoan Attorneys and the new Administration, Governor Lolo and Lt. Governor Lemanu Mauga, and Attorney General Afoa are very much into hiring locally and empowering our young people.


This is to help them to get experience and to invest in ASG, our island and our people, Jessop told Samoa Observer. “We generally recruit in the United States and so you are looking at Americans that come here.


“This isn’t their home, it isn’t their people — so they come and do their two years and leave again. They are not interested in building the infrastructure.


“So that is what the new Administration is looking at, they want young Samoans who can help build this infrastructure,” she told Samoa Observer. She noted that the Samoa Bar Association has a large pool of attorneys, unlike American Samoa.


“Per capita you (Samoa) have more people here and you have more educated people here. So I know you have attorneys here," she said, adding, “I just want Samoan attorneys, I don’t care where you are living." She then told Samoa Observer that she studied law because she wanted to come back and help her people — a quality she hopes to instill in all who work with her.


“I am Samoan and I want to give back and I want to help my people,” she says. “I want to leave this place better than I found it.”Jessop says for this reason she wants to build up her department with young professionals who are like minded in this respect.


President of the American Samoa Bar Association (ASBAR) Toetasi Tuiteleleapaga noted that several advantages to recruiting attorneys from Samoa to work in the Attorney General's Office are: no culture shock, no language barrier, prior experience and knowledge of fa'asamoa, communal land and matai issues. Also, there are fewer expenses for travel and moving.


“Most likely, the recruitment efforts may yield some good results because of the difference in compensation, and of course, the power of the US dollar.” He also pointed out that while he’s in support of recruiting from Samoa he does not believe that we should forget about our local men and women who are in law school in the US.


“They should be the first targets for recruitment. In a lot of cases, ASG has paid for a portion of their schooling, and so it just makes sense that they come back to the Territory to work and give back, which many of them do today," he said.


“The Independent State of Samoa would probably make a good secondary target for recruitment due to the reasons already touched upon.” Tuiteleleapaga pointed out that as long as any attorney who wishes to practice law in the territory can meet the Bar Association's requirements for admission, then they should be allowed the opportunity.


“Of the few attorneys that are educated in NZ and AUS that practice here in AS, I have known them to be fine attorneys who have done well and continue to do well here. I see no reason to exclude them from this market.


"The Attorney General has to staff his office. This is the bottom line. If he can staff his office with able attorneys from the Independent State, then I believe he should be allowed to do so, as long as they meet the requirements for practicing in the Territory," the ASBA president stated.


He further explained, “As a policy matter, the Attorney General will have to decide whether these attorneys will be involved in certain legal matters that are handled by his office, such as immigration, given the Attorney General's position on the Immigration Board bill earlier this year. Issues like this are, of course, up to the Attorney General and the Governor. Having various and differing points of view on the law may increase our understanding and may lead to some advancements in our profession.”


Tuiteleleapaga concluded, "We are always willing to learn as much as we can from others in our field, and anyone coming from the Independent State will be no exception to this. In fact, one of the work programs for the Bar Association for the upcoming year is to reestablish dialogue with the Samoa Law Society and push joint initiatives for the Two Samoas. This is the same spirit which moves us to welcome our colleagues from the Independent State of Samoa who wish to practice here."