The only law firm on Saba: "Especially in a small community, it is important to continue seeking solutions together for difficult situations"

Gerald Simmons - de Jong

In the second part of this two-part series, you will read about Gerald Simmons – de Jong, alumnus of Erasmus School of Law, and his career in the Caribbean. When Gerald moved to Saba for love and began working as a lawyer for the Public Entity, he quickly realized that he was the only legal expert on the island. In this article, he shares more about this unique position, his career, and the legal developments that Saba has experienced over the years.

A jack of all trades

Gerald explains that working for the Public Entity Saba was unique for many reasons. "In addition to being close to the government, local colleagues, and the Saban population, strangely enough, you are also very close to the Kingdom in The Hague. Delegations from ministries, national services, and executive organizations visited every week. The communication lines were short with all officials at every level of the ministry, from policy advisors to director-general, and the lines were short with all government officials such as secretaries of state, ministers, and parliamentarians." Gerald often joked that Saba's legal counsel had more direct access than the legal counsel of an average municipality in the Netherlands. These direct lines were beneficial for many positive projects for the island and its population. However, they also added a unique layer to your professional field. You almost had to be a jack of all trades on Saba for every role. "Over the years, the attitude and collaboration between The Hague officials and island officials changed. In the beginning, I experienced a lot of mistrust and misunderstanding. The challenge was to turn this into a much more positive way of working together with more mutual understanding and trust."

"In addition to the key role Gerald played in the island's energy transition, he also played a significant role in the pilot for a legal desk. Saba was the first island in the Caribbean part to start with it. Gerald wrote the plan, submitted the original assistance request on behalf of the Public Entity, and, together with the island secretary and the local government, asked the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations for a special grant to improve access to justice on Saba. "Now, six years later, the legal desk has finally been sustained, and all three islands, Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius, have access to first-line legal aid through a legal desk on the island."

With an emphasis on mediation

“After eight years, I was ready to move on from the Public Entity. I believe in continually reinventing yourself. I also think certain key positions have a certain shelf life, and doing something else at the right time is important. Not only for yourself but also for the organization. This does not seem to be a common belief in the civil service world in The Hague or the Caribbean. People tend to stay in positions for a long time or get recycled into new positions," Gerald explains.

"Gerald opened his own law firm on Saba on November 30, 2023, under the name DEJONG. The firm practices general law. Gerald explains that he manages the firm somewhat traditionally. "I run it like the local general law firm: a lot of personal contact and trust. The families living here have had little or poor access to legal aid for a long time. All those cases are now surfacing more and more. People want to solve their problems." It gives him much satisfaction to make a difference for the people truly. The focus of his practice is on mediation. 'Especially in a small community, it is important to continue seeking solutions together for difficult situations, and mediation always deserves preference." In addition, DEJONG is also a consultancy firm contributing to further developing the larger islands of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten by providing flexible support in law and regulations, policy, and project and program management.

Gerald Simmons - de Jong op Saba

More access to justice for Saba

Gerald indicates that the establishment of his firm coincides with other positive developments on the island. Since late 2022, there has been a notary on Saba, and a year later, the opening of the courthouse followed. Additionally, Saba will also have a legal desk for first-line legal aid. Gerald: "These are good developments that make it easier for the residents of Saba to access knowledge and information about their rights and duties."

In 2024, Gerald's focus is on further expanding his firm. Additionally, Gerald has personal goals, such as spending more of his free time on various boards and supervisory positions in the region.

Gerald concludes his story with advice for law students: "Always follow your heart; it will take you to unexpectedly beautiful places. Do not always play it safe. Stay adventurous and authentically yourself. And most importantly of all, always remain critical of yourself. Everyone and every situation is a life lesson!"


Read the first article of this two-part series via the link below.

Related content
Gerald Simmons - de Jong, alumnus of Erasmus School of Law, recounts his move to Saba and life there in this first part of a two-part series.
Gerald en Justin op hun geiten- en kippenboerderij

Compare @count study programme

  • @title

    • Duration: @duration
Compare study programmes