Inaugural LSSA attorneys’ association establishment meeting held

October 10th, 2019
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Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) President, Mvuzo Notyesi, addressing attorneys in East London at the Eastern Cape LSSA Attorneys’ Association establishment meeting held in early October.

By Nomfundo Jele

The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) will be establishing provincial attorneys’ associations in the nine provinces of South Africa. To do this, the LSSA will be holding several establishment meetings across the country.

The first establishment meeting was held in East London on 2 October. The meeting was attended by some 70 attorneys, including the Chairperson of the Eastern Cape Attorneys Association, Asanda Pakade. Member of the LSSA Family Law Committee, attorney Ncumisa Nongogo opened the meeting and welcomed attendees.

President of the LSSA, Mvuzo Notyesi, explained the background regarding the establishment meetings. He said that the independence of the profession must be preserved otherwise attorneys will have no future. Mr Notyesi outlined the structure of the Legal Practice Council (LPC) and highlighted the fact that the 23-member council has diverse interests and that the LPC’s sole role is to regulate the profession. He highlighted that the LPC also has no mandate to hold annual general meetings.

Mr Notyesi said that the LSSA constitution has been amended and that there is now one-third representation from each constituent member, namely, the Black Lawyers Association (BLA), the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL) and independent attorney associations (the Independents). He explained the composition of the House of Constituents, consists of 27 members, nine representatives from every province from each constituent member. Mr Notyesi also explained the composition of the LSSA, saying that Exco has nine members, consisting of three members from each of the constituent members, namely, the BLA, NADEL and the Independents.

Mr Notyesi said that it would be difficult to question organisations and law makers if there is no LSSA to speak on behalf of the profession. He asked who will escalate unfair legislation or unfair pricing/fees if there is no LSSA? The President cited an example of the professional indemnity insurance fees that the Legal Practitioners’ Indemnity Insurance Fund NPC (LPIIF) wanted to impose, the LSSA has called for an engagement meeting with the LPIIF. He again highlighted the fact that the LSSA is always looking out for the interest of attorneys and at times stops matters affecting attorneys long before the attorneys are aware of such matters.

Mr Notyesi said that the LSSA has an interest in professional interest matters, such as conveyancing, and asked who would raise these issues on behalf of attorneys if the LSSA ceased to exist. He added that the LSSA needed to exist as a professional interest body.

Mr Notyesi called on LSSA Senior Manager of Professional Affairs, Lizette Burger to speak on the LSSA value-add document, which was handed out at the meeting. Ms Burger highlighted the members’ benefits initiatives. She said that the LSSA was, among others, looking into a wellness programme for attorneys. Globally, the suicide and depression rate among attorneys is high, as being an attorney is a ‘tough job’. She urged those in attendance to let the LSSA know if they can think of anything that the LSSA can do to add value in their life.

Ms Burger said that the profession was under siege and that the Proxi Smart matter (see www.lssa.org.za) was not the only case illustrating this. She added that there was a very small amount of work that is still reserved for attorneys only and gave an example of the administration of estates not being reserved work anymore as banks and other organisations also conduct it. Ms Burger added that the LSSA was lobbying for the administration of estates to go back to being reserved work.

Lastly, Mr Notyesi said that the aim of the meeting was to establish the Eastern Cape Attorneys Association for the LSSA and welcomed questions and input from the floor.

Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) Senior Manager: Professional Affairs, Lizette Burger, addressing attorneys at the Eastern Cape LSSA Attorneys’ Association establishment meeting held in East London on 3 October.

Questions and comments from the floor

A concern was raised about the late notice given for such an important event. The delegate that raised the issue asked that attorneys be given sufficient notice next time.

Mr Notyesi apologised for the delay in communication and assured the delegate that it would not happen again.

LPC Provincial Council Member and attorney, Gordon Pope, asked what the LSSA envisioned in terms of the structure. How would the non-BLA, non-NADEL members make up the structure of the provincial attorneys’ associations? Mr Pope noted that in February a similar meeting was held with most Eastern Cape attorneys in King William’s Town who wanted to form an association very similar to this one. At the end of that meeting, an association was created, and an executive was elected. Mr Pope welcomed the LSSA’s initiative and said that this structure would be very helpful in the Provincial Efficiency Enhancement Committee and the lower court performance structures.

Mr Notyesi stated that the persons elected to the structure that Mr Pope referred to should attend the next meeting in the Eastern Cape and maybe they would be elected to serve on the LSSA Eastern Cape Provincial Association.

LPC Provincial Council Member and attorney, Zuko Tshutshane welcomed the new body, especially in the Eastern Cape. He said that this body was needed, as the many international firms/bodies take work away from the Eastern Cape law firms, adding that this body may help in addressing that.

Mr Tshutshane said that this initiative must be factored into the then circles, as those structures were similar to what the LSSA is trying to achieve. He added that the LSSA is currently expected to exist for only three years and that this needs to be changed as the attorneys’ profession needs the LSSA to exist forever.

Mr Tshutshane also raised the question of the composition of the numbers for the structure. He asked: ‘How will we know how many people to elect to sit on the attorneys’ association executive? Will we just look at the composition and geographical spread and own circumstances?’ He also said that the executive seats must be transformational and must include young attorneys, as well as female attorneys. He added that the interests of young attorneys may not be the same as the interests of older attorneys. He gave the example that young attorneys may know more about what candidate attorneys need and are going through because they mingle with them and that young attorneys were candidate attorneys not too long ago.

Mthatha attorney, Zincedile Tiya, wanted to know how elections would work.

A concern was raised that there seemed to be no concern from the bodies with power when it came to estate agents and conveyancing. It was noted that the banks made it impossible for attorneys to be on their conveyancing panels and that the requirement of having R 20 million in one’s bank account was ridiculous and the reason why so many attorneys were eliminated from the work. One of the attendees added that it felt like black conveyancers were not being looked out for.

Mr Notyesi spoke about a recent conference that he attended with Patrice Motsepe and spoke about the banks’ scorecards. He reassured the participants that raised this question that there are already ongoing talks regarding the issue.

In response to Mr Tiya and Mr Tshutshane, Mr Notyesi said that the LSSA will not prescribe a certain number and that the composition of the executive seats would be in accordance with the needs of that province. He urged the delegates to look for and elect people who are committed to the legal profession and who will put in the necessary work and not just those that want the title to make their CV look good.

A question was asked on who would regulate the new structures and how and when they would convene, as well as who would be paying for the meetings?

It was decided that the follow-up meeting would be held on 6 November in East London.

The dates for the next meetings are below. The venues will be communicated in due time. All meetings are provisionally booked for 4:30 pm.

 

Province  Date of meeting
Limpopo Thursday, 24 October
Bloemfontein Friday, 25 October
Mpumalanga (Nelspruit) Tuesday, 29 October
Northern Cape (Kimberley) Thursday, 31 October
Western Cape (Cape Town) Thursday, 7 November
KwaZulu-Natal (Durban) Thursday, 14 November
North West (Hunters Rest) Tuesday, 19 November

 

Nomfundo Jele, Communications Officer, Law Society of South Africa, nomfundom@lssa.org.za