Legal education: Will we ever get it right?

April 1st, 2018

Mapula Sedutla – Editor

While the profession ponders the effects of state capture, how land expropriation without compensation will be implemented and the future of practice under the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (LPA). There are many other issues that the profession needs to grapple with as the LPA becomes fully operational. One such issue being legal education.

In our news section we cover the recently held Legal Education Conference where issues in and around education were discussed. Issues debated on legal education have been discussed in the past, but now is the opportune time to make the necessary changes as the profession transitions to regulation by the Legal Practice Council. The debates should not only include discourse on the worth of the LLB degree, the debates should also include the importance of practical vocational training (PVT) and how this would be implemented in the future dispensation. An important part of one becoming a great legal practitioner is influenced by what they learn during their period as a candidate legal practitioner, so this part of legal education should not be left out in the discussions.

One of the contentious issues discussed at the Legal Education Conference is uniformed PVT. The Law Society of South Africa is of the view that PVT should be uniform for candidate attorneys and pupils, while the General Council of the Bar says that it should not be uniform. Another topic discussed at the conference is that the LPA requires that all candidate legal practitioners be paid a stipend. Currently pupils do not get paid, while candidate attorneys are paid, although unacceptably low salaries. Suggestions have been made for the Attorneys Fidelity Fund (AFF) to pay candidate legal practitioners, which might exhaust the capital of the AFF.

An important point of consideration that was made at the Legal Education Conference is the fact that the discussions on legal education are predominantly conducted by those who want to include themselves in the future of legal education, which they may not necessarily be part of. Society requires the legal fraternity to meet their demands in terms of service delivery, this means that legal practitioners of the future should be mindful of these demands while they are keeping up to date with the ever changing law.

The road to being a great legal practitioner is paved by the education that the legal practitioner receives, if this is not done adequately the rule of law, transformation of the legal fraternity and access to justice are in jeopardy (see p 6).


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