“Faces” is a component of the Financial Centre Focus (FCF) initiative coordinated by BFSB and the Professional Industry Association Working Group to profile role models within the financial services sector. It is produced in collaboration with Guardian Business, with profiles appearing in the Monday edition of the Nassau Guardian each week.
Sharlyn R. Smith (nee Wilson)
Industry Position: Real Property and Commercial Attorney, Sharon Wilson & Co.
Education & Training: 1997, LL.B (Hons), University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire, England; 1998, Called to Bar of The Bahamas and Bar of England and Wales; 1999, Masters in International Business Law, American University, Washington College of Law, Washington, D.C.; 2009 Admitted to Graduateship of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, London, England
Affiliations: Member of Board of Marathon Bahamas; Executive Committee Member of the Southern Area of the Links, Inc.; former director Bahamas AIDS Foundation; former member Health Professional’s Council.
Personal: Married. Two children.
What attracted you to the sector?
I was attracted to the Law because of the impact that it has on every aspect of our society. I thought that an understanding of the Law would allow me, through my profession, to help in strengthening our society.
How long have you been involved in financial services? What keeps you motivated?
I was called to the Bar on September 11th, 1998. I am fortunate to have lots of motivation. I enjoy my work! It is all about people and I like helping people. Law often can be intimidating and I feel fulfilled when I am able to make it less intimidating for my clients. The desire to see a better Bahamas through better laws still motivates me. I am pleased to have been able to make a contribution to both recent land and business related legislation. It was gratifying to see that my comments on the new Business License Act were incorporated into an amendment to the Act. My family also motivates me; in particular, wanting to be a good role model for my two young daughters. Primarily, though I am motivated by a belief that everything we do should be to the honour and glory of God and for positive advancement.
Why do you think you have been successful? Did mentoring play a part in your success?
I have always enjoyed strong family support and encouragement. Emphasis was always placed on Christian values and a hard work ethic. I was fortunate at the start of my career to work at a firm that valued ethics and sought to preserve the customs that made the Bahamas Bar great.
I had a wonderful pupil master who was generous in sharing his knowledge of the law (and life) with me. Recently, I have worked closely with a seasoned US tax and real estate attorney in advising on the marketing and sale of land in The Bahamas to Americans. This attorney (who recently passed away) shared a tremendous wealth of knowledge garnered through his decades of experiences with me. Also, Justice Neville L. Smith (Ret.), former Chief Justice of several eastern Caribbean territories, is of counsel to Sharon Wilson & Co. and generously shares his knowledge. All in all, I have a strong foundation and have worked with and continue to work with extremely talented people. I think that any success that I have had is, in great part, because of this.
What qualifications do you feel are the most useful in helping you perform in the sector?
In addition to my academic training in the law, I have sought to engage in activities that will allow me to continuously add value to clients. I undertook a course of study to qualify as a Chartered Secretary and be admitted, in 2009, to the Graduateship of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators. I studied finance, accounting, corporate strategy and corporate governance in depth. Locally, I have also engaged in formal studies in real estate from which I gained insight into the “business” aspects of real estate development and sales. Again, I think that this adds value to my practice and allows me to understand and appreciate the position of my clients better; after all, it is all about people.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career? How did you overcome it?
I am constantly challenged in my career. My pupil master would often say that that is why it is called the practice of law! I go back to the foundation. I dig into the issue and work through it and I pray. I do not believe that one works well without the other.
What advice would you give young people just starting out in the law?
It is trite - however, studying and using your best efforts to master your chosen area are essential. Beyond that, I would invoke the words of a senior attorney who, at a Call to the Bar, said that an unethical lawyer is a dangerous creature. I would advise any young lawyer that ethics are just as important as academics. Any person entering the Law should bear this in mind and should strive to adhere to the highest ethical standards and to observe the customs of the Bar.