Meet the Jamaican-born woman who attained the world’s highest mark in law exam

January 20, 2020 at 10:00 am | Women

Mildred Europa Taylor

Mildred Europa Taylor | Associate Editor

January 20, 2020 at 10:00 am | Women

Almost everyone was full of joy when it was announced in 2017 that Jamaican-born Jo-Anne Jackson-Stephens had received the world’s highest mark in a law exam.

Then working at Higgs & Johnson in the Cayman Islands, Jackson-Stephens received a STEP excellence award for achieving the highest mark in the world on the Company Law and Practice exam.

STEP, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, is a worldwide professional association with over 20,000 members in 95 countries, consisting mainly of trust and estate attorneys, accountants and trust specialists.

Crediting her hard work and dedication to her achievement, her award highlighted the important contributions that Caribbean lawyers have made and still make to the global community.

What was more gratifying was that she had broken into a usually white and male profession where women of color and black women specifically continue to be significantly underrepresented.

Even in law education, most black women do face obstacles such as lack of tuition, mentorship and sponsorship opportunities.

“I was competing with very smart and capable people from across the world including the UK, Europe and the Caribbean,” Jackson-Stephens said. “It demonstrates that hard work and dedication are truly the keys to success.”

Growing up, Jackson-Stephens, the daughter of an economist, had the passion for problem-solving, and this influenced her decision to enter the legal profession.

“I wanted the challenge of finding wealth management solutions for my clients in an ever changing legal and regulatory global environment,” she said.

A former student of Immaculate Conception High in St Andrew, Jackson-Stephens completed her law degree at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica and Barbados.

She went ahead to receive her CLE at the Norman Manley Law School in 2006 and her Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the University of Oxford in 2012. 

Joining Walkers’ Cayman Islands office in 2018, Jackson-Stephens is now a senior counsel in the Private Capital & Trusts Group.

She has “considerable experience with advising trustees, beneficiaries, protectors and settlors on the creation and administration of trusts, estate planning, and the preparation of Wills. She additionally advises on unit trusts, employee benefits schemes and other commercial trusts,” writes walkersglobal.com.

Being a member of STEP gives her and many other lawyers in the Society the TEP ( Trust and Estate Practitioner) designation, allowing them to be considered among the most experienced and senior practitioners in the field of trusts and estates, reports Loop.

“It is great to see the hard work and dedication of a Cayman Islands practitioner being recognized on such a high-profile and global scale. This further demonstrates the quality of lawyers we employ and produce here in the Cayman Islands,” Alasdair Robertson, President of the Cayman Islands Law Society, said at the time.

Over the years, scores of outstanding lawyers from the Caribbean have been among honorees at various awards ceremonies.

In June 2017, Guyana-born Patrick Case received the Law Society medal in Toronto for his tremendous service to women who were victims of male violence.

The trade unionist and school trustee has “shown extraordinary leadership advocating for social justice in the area of equity and racism and has led the way in establishing policies and practices on how to address racism,” a press release stated.

That same year, Jamaican human rights lawyer Malene Alleyne received the 2017 Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year award from the International Bar Association (IBA).

The award is presented to “a young lawyer who has shown not only excellence in their work and achievements in their career to date, but also a commitment to professional and ethical standards as well as a commitment to the larger community.”

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