Is the profession ready for the full implementation of the LPA?

July 1st, 2018
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Mapula Sedutla – Editor

With only a few months left until the full enactment of the of the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (LPA) and the termination of the National Forum on the Legal Profession (NF), legal practitioners must be pondering whether the profession is ready for the envisaged Legal Practice Council (LPC).

The NF, which has been in operation since February 2015, is due to be terminated on 31 October when the LPA is fully implemented, this will also close the four statutory law societies. Member of the NF, Jan Stemmett prepared the summary to give an update on the NF and the LPA (for more info see www.LSSA.org.za).

The NF has completed the following tasks or the tasks are near completion:

  • A Code of Conduct for all legal practitioners, non-practising legal practitioners, candidate legal practitioners and corporate legal entities was drafted and published. The Code, gazetted in February 2017 (GN 81 GG40610/10-2-2017), will only be operational when the new LPC starts to regulate the legal profession.
  • Regulations were finalised by the Department of Justice after recommendations by the NF and after consultation between the minister and the NF. The Regulations will be promulgated after approval by Parliament.
  • Rules were finalised by the NF after drafts were published for comment by interested parties. The final version will be gazetted in July.
  • Transfer agreements have been concluded with the four statutory law societies, providing for the transfer of assets, rights, liabilities, obligations and staff to the LPC and the Provincial Councils. The parties agreed that R 50 million of the money to be transferred to the LPC, will be transferred to the LSSA.
  • Transitional arrangements are being attended to by the NF’s Transitional Arrangements Committee to ensure a smooth transfer of regulatory functions of the existing law societies and advocates’ structures to the new LPC and the nine Provincial Councils.
  • Election of the ten attorneys and six advocates to serve on the first LPC is intended to be conducted in August by an election service provider under supervision of the NF. An Election Committee was appointed by the NF for this purpose. Three additional members are due to be appointed to the LPC by the minister, two by the law teachers and one each by the Attorneys Fidelity Fund (AFF) and Legal Aid South Africa (Legal Aid SA). The legal practitioners to serve on the nine Provincial Councils are due to be elected under supervision of the LPC. In terms of the election Regulations and Rules, the composition of the LPC and Provincial Councils is due to reflect the demographics of the country.
  • Buildings and infrastructure of the LPC and Provincial Councils will be required as soon as ch 2 of the LPA comes into operation (intended to happen by 1 August) but acquisition can only be made once the Regulations and Rules are in place.

A Transitional Arrangements Committee, which consists of members of the NF and representatives of the law societies, has been established to attend to all transitional aspects. The committee will be attending to the following, in cooperation with the Pre-transitional Committees of the law societies:

  • Arrange for the payment of interest on trust banking accounts by attorneys over the transitional period to the provincial law societies until the effective date, whereafter the money will be transferred to the AFF.
  • Prepare for the transfer of work in progress from the provincial law societies to the LPC and Provincial Councils.
  • Prepare for the transfer of regulatory work in progress from advocates structures to the LPC and Provincial Councils.
  • Arrange for the handing over by the provincial law societies of –
    • documents of title to the assets and rights, which are in their possession or under their control;
    • the originals (or copies) of all their contracts;
    • records relating to the activities of the provincial law societies prior to the effective date and relating to its assets, rights, liabilities and obligations.
  • Standardise the operational and financial procedures and systems currently in place at the various provincial law societies and aligning such procedures with the rules and regulations of the LPC (eg, disciplinary procedures).
  • Take steps to urgently deal with existing backlogs, to ensure a smooth transition of the operational functions of the provincial law societies to the LPC.
  • Arrange for the continuation of the Benevolent Funds of the provincial law societies after the effective date.
  • Arrange for the LPC to take over the pending court cases in which the law societies and advocates structures are involved.
  • Compiling a database of all admitted legal practitioners, including unaffiliated advocates.
  • Communication by the NF with the minister, the law teachers, the AFF and Legal Aid SA to arrange for the appointment of the non-elected designates to the LPC.

As can be seen from the above, a lot of work has taken place to ensure a smooth transition from the exiting regulatory bodies to the new LPC.

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This article was first published in De Rebus in 2018 (July) DR 3.

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