Letters to the editor – September 2019

September 1st, 2019
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PO Box 36626, Menlo Park 0102

Docex 82, Pretoria

E-mail: derebus@derebus.org.za

Fax (012) 362 0969

Letters are not published under noms de plume. However, letters from practising attorneys who make their identities and addresses known to the editor may be considered for publication anonymously.

Responses to #LLBDegree

Students are not prepared for the practical side of legal practice after graduation. Some modules in the LLB degree need to be scrapped altogether because once a candidate legal practitioner’s articles have commenced, they are not effective.

Law clinics must be utilised more often, to enable students to learn the practical side of things while still at university.

What is the point of contracts when a candidate legal practitioner cannot draft a contract while serving articles? What is the point of civil procedure, when students only start learning about it towards their final year?

Subjects need to be aligned so they may go together. Hence why most students struggle out there. Practical modules should be intensive to prepare students for what is to come.

 Mpho Siphugu, legal practitioner, Johannesburg

 

I am a legal practitioner who qualified in July 2011 and completed my LLB at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and practical legal training (PLT) in 2008. Once I entered practice as a candidate legal practitioner, I realised that apart from a brief exercise in PLT where we worked on a mock divorce matter, I was not equipped for practice and had barely seen any pleadings let alone drafted them. Apart from one mock trial during our LLB degree, I was certainly ill-equipped for court appearances.

The focus of the modules in the LLB degree is on memorising notes comprised of statutes and cases and regurgitating them in examinations followed by an application of the law to the provided facts. The memorising of the notes should not be the focus but the application as this is what is pertinent in practice.

The lecturer for the criminal procedure course I attended implemented a system where our class notes and textbooks were allowed in the examination and our application of the law was tested. I propose this for all modules because when one is practising, the law is continually expanding. Case law is continually developing, and a statute can be repealed in its entirety or amended. When one researches a matter in order to serve a client, the law is readily available through legal research, but the application in order to draft papers, provide legal advice or for court appearances are not. The testing of the application of the law is a more logical method of training future legal practitioners.

PLT can be incorporated into the LLB degree instead of being a separate course. I felt that many subjects merely repeated modules completed in the LLB degree.

Practice management is also a separate six months online course, which has now been introduced for those embarking on opening a practice and I have successfully completed this recently.

Many of these modules can be taught within the LLB degree, therefore, saving the student unnecessary costs. Most of the modules in first year are academic in nature and not specifically legally related. I propose that modules, such as linguistics and gender studies – which are all optional – be shortened to one semester and the second semester of first year commence with more actual legal modules. Conveyancing could be included, at least as a basic course.

Employers require risk and legal compliance for which students have no knowledge or training, and this can be included in the LLB degree as well. Overall, a more practical approach to the LLB is required, in my opinion.

Nishaye Sewlal Padayachee, legal practitioner, Durban

 

The LLB syllabus is not aligned to vocational training and practice. It does not equip the LLB student with the necessary skills needed of a legal practitioner. For example, 80% of practice work is procedure, but a student only starts doing civil procedure in their third year of study and only for a period of ten months.

For this, I would propose that civil procedure should be a module that is done throughout the LLB degree. In the first year, students can be taught to write letters of demand, draft summonses and even be taught how summonses are served by the Sheriff. Civil procedure should be practical and students could take part with assisting law clinics with small litigation matters.

What is the point of contract law if universities are not going to teach students actual drafting? There is really no point to teaching the principles of contract law, if during their final year a student cannot produce a two-page contract. Courses such as jurisprudence should be for a duration of six months or the module should be scrapped altogether.

Secondly, all other courses in the LLB degree must be offered in conjunction with civil procedure matters relating to that course. For example, students must learn how an application for mandament van spolie and eviction cases can be worked on while doing property law theory.

Students must be taught how to index and paginate, and how to apply for a trial date from their second year of study onwards. Finally, law firms must be willing to provide vocational training to students from their second year onwards to gain practical experience before commencing articles.

Thembinkosi Sithole, legal practitioner, Johannesburg

 

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2019 (September) DR 4.