The founder of the firm, the late Frederick E Kelsick, QC, studied law at The University of Toronto, Canada and Pembroke College, Cambridge University and was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in London. Fred returned to his native Montserrat and began practice there. He traveled to St. Kitts in 1947 to conduct a criminal defence on assignment by the Court after which he set up practice in Basseterre.
His practice grew rapidly and his reputation as an advocate and a commercial lawyer spread throughout the Leeward Islands between which he moved regularly to appear in Court and to consult with his growing clientele. He was joined in April 1960 by his brother John Kelsick under the name Kelsick & Kelsick. John also attended Cambridge University and was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in February 1960. Their partnership continued until John returned to Montserrat in 1967.
Fred continued in St. Kitts as a sole practitioner until he was joined in August 1971 by his stepson Charles L A Wilkin. Charles was also a graduate of Pembroke College, Cambridge University and was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn. The firm was known as Kelsick & Wilkin. Charles was based principally in St Kitts while Fred focused on servicing the firm’s clients throughout the Leeward Islands. Elizabeth A Kelsick, daughter of Fred, sister of Charles and a graduate of the University of Toronto and the University of the West Indies (“UWI”), joined the firm as an associate in 1986.
While at the peak of his capability as a lawyer (and shortly after becoming a Queens Counsel) Fred died prematurely in July 1988 at the age of 64. From October 1988 Charles, Elizabeth and J. Emile Ferdinand, who had served as a Crown Counsel after graduating with a law degree from The University of the West Indies and the holder of a Masters degree in law from Trinity College, Cambridge University, continued the practice under the firm name of Kelsick, Wilkin & Ferdinand. Charles became a Queens Counsel in 1998 and Emile in 2012. In 2001 Damian Kelsick, a graduate with a law degree from The University of London, joined as the fourth partner of the firm.
Below is a brief history and profile of our practice, in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the firm in 2007:
KELSICK, WILKIN & FERDINAND
The firm has a strong practice in real estate development. Fred, Charles and Elizabeth served as directors of Basseterre Property Company Limited which developed the significant Bladen Residential and Bladen Commercial developments in Basseterre. Charles and Elizabeth currently serve on the Board of St Kitts Developments Limited which has developed 150 acres of residential land in and around the Half Moon Bay area. Fred was a founder of that Company. Fred and Charles established the Earles Mornes residential development on the outskirts of Basseterre and Charles is a partner in the Turtle Beach Estates on The Southeast Peninsula of St Kitts, the first major development of that pristine area.
The firm has a loyal and hardworking staff presently numbering 15. Our former Chief Clerk Mavis Gilpin-Payne was in her 50th year of service to the firm in 2007. Our Office Manager Lynne Hawley, step daughter of our founder and sister of Charles and Elizabeth, has been with the firm for 25 years.
The partners of the firm have over the years provided strong public service. Fred served as Chairman of the Electoral Commission, a public office established by the Constitution of St Kitts-Nevis and was succeeded in that office by Charles. Charles also served as Chairman of World Cup St Kitts-Nevis Limited, the Local Organising Committee of the Cricket World Cup 2007.
Emile served on a temporary basis in 2004 as a Judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and was a Member of the 2005 Parliamentarians’ Salaries Review Advisory Committee for St Kitts-Nevis. Between 2005 and 2007 Emile was elected as Chairman of the Caribbean’s Council of Legal Education which operates law schools in Trinidad, Jamaica and The Bahamas.
From November 2010 Emile served for 3 years a member of the Regional Judicial & Legal Services Commission which appoints judges and other staff to the Caribbean Court of Justice.
Emile and Damian have served on the Social Security Board of St Kitts-Nevis.
Charles and Emile have served as President of the Rotary Club of St Kitts.
PRIVATE SECTOR ORGANISATIONS
The firm acts as principal legal advisors to the St Kitts-Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Charles was at the forefront of the revitalization of the Chamber in 1982 and has served on the Board of the Chamber and as a representative to the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce. Charles has for the past 30 years served on the Board of Directors of St Kitts Nevis Anguilla Trading and Development Company Limited (“TDC”), a leading public company in St Kitts-Nevis which is listed on the Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange.
Our practitioners have always been fully and actively involved in the St Kitts-Nevis Bar Association. Fred, Charles and Emile have all served as President of that organisation and Elizabeth served outstandingly for several years as Secretary. Damian also served as Vice President.
Fred (as representative of the Leeward Islands) served as a member of the Committee on Legal Education appointed in 1963 by the Council of the University of the West Indies (UWI) to make recommendations to UWI on the role it should play in legal education in the region. The work of the Committee led to the establishment in 1970 of the Law Faculty of UWI and the Commonwealth Caribbean’s Council of Legal Education, the latter of which operates the three Law Schools in the Commonwealth Caribbean in Trinidad, Jamaica and The Bahamas. Emile has served as Chairman of the Council from January 2005 to August 2007. The firm has for many years provided annual in-service training for law students of UWI and the Caribbean’s law schools. An annual prize is given in the name of the founder of our practice to the most outstanding student in revenue law at the Faculty of Law of UWI.
The firm is a member of Lex Mundi, the world’s leading association of independent law firms. While each member firm of this prestigious organization operates independently each is required to provide excellent service and to adhere to Uniform Service Standards.
The firm is also a member of World Services Group, a global membership association of the world’s leading service providers, including professionals of all disciplines.
The firm prides itself on its independence from the party politics of the islands. This was reflected in the influential roles played by Emile Ferdinand (as a representative of the Chamber of Industry & Commerce) and Charles Wilkin (as a representative of the Bar Association) in the brokering, negotiation and drafting of the Four Seasons Accord which resolved in a mature and responsible manner the political impasse which threatened the stability of St Kitts-Nevis following the General Elections of 1993.
We are well placed and prepared to contribute to and to benefit from the continued growth of the St Kitts-Nevis economy which is now service based with tourism and financial services having replaced sugar agriculture as the major industries. We have kept apace with changes in technology and will continue to do so. We have adapted to the faster pace of commercial activity and the new Civil Procedure Rules of our High Court. We are committed to continued growth and to playing a significant role in the development of our clients, our profession and our country.