LSSA calls on practitioners to support the Legal Practice Council

November 1st, 2018
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By Barbara Whittle

On 8 October, at a press conference in Pretoria, the National Forum on the Legal Profession (NF) announced the results of the first election for council members for the Legal Practice Council (LPC). The ten attorneys elected are –

  • Miles Carter;
  • Priyesh Daya;
  • Krish Govender;
  • Nolitha Jali;
  • Noxolo Maduba;
  • Hlahleleni Kathleen Matolo-Dlepu;
  • Janine Myburgh;
  • Trudie Nichols;
  • Lutendo Sigogo; and
  • Jan Stemmett.

The six advocates are –

  • Greg Harpur SC;
  • Grace Goedhart SC;
  • Ismail Jamie SC;
  • Harshila Kooverjie SC;
  • Vuyani Ngalwana SC; and
  • Anthea Platt SC.

The nomination and election process ran throughout September until 3 October. At its Council meeting on 20 September, the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) discussed the election and expressed concern that the NF’s election process only made provision for voting at polling stations. The view was expressed that the polling station system may be suitable for advocates, but attorneys were scattered across the country and would be disadvantaged and prejudiced if a polling station was not easily accessible. The LSSA Council resolved to communicate this to the NF and request it to consider postal, docex and courier votes, as well as an extension of the voting deadline to allow for these types of votes. Later that day, the NF issued an advisory informing practitioners that the voting process allowed for postal, docex and couriered votes and that the voting deadline had been extended from 28 September to 3 October.

Earlier in September, the LSSA welcomed the announcement of the nomination and election process by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha, and urged all practising legal practitioners to participate fully in the elections.  In its press release, the LSSA acknowledged the work and sacrifices made by the legal practitioners and other members who had worked tirelessly on the NF for some three years to guide the profession to the historic moment when a transformed and unified regulatory body would take the legal profession forward.

LSSA Co-chairpersons, Ettienne Barnard and Mvuzo Notyesi pointed out that, even though the four statutory provincial law societies would fall away once the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (LPA) is fully implemented, the LSSA would continue as the unified, independent, representative voice of the attorneys’ profession, acting in the interest of the public and the profession; and defending the rule of law. To this end the LSSA called on attorneys to comment on amendments being made to the LSSA’s constitution to allow for changes that would be brought about by the implementation of the LPA.

On 3 October, on the close of the election process, the LSSA issued a statement noting with concern the views expressed by some legal practitioners in the media criticising as unconstitutional the ‘quota system’ for the election of LPC Council members.

‘We acknowledge that, as this is the first of such elections, it cannot be expected to be perfect nor totally satisfactory. Although the LPA itself does not define the quotas, it does require that the composition of the LPC must, as far as practicable, take into account the racial and gender composition of South Africa – not that of the legal profession,’ said Mr Notyesi and Mr Barnard.

The LSSA pointed out that the NF – which included representatives of the attorneys’ and advocates’ professions – had debated and agonised over this issue extensively and painstakingly over many meetings. Similarly, the Justice Portfolio Committee was not comfortable with the concept of quotas. ‘We all agree that this is not the ideal way to elect representatives, but we understand that, until such time as the demographics of the legal profession reflect the demographics of our country, this was the reasonable way to ensure demographic representation of black and women Council members on the new Legal Practice Council,’ said the Co-chairpersons.

They added: ‘This process can apply to the first election only. Once the first Council is elected, it may consult, consider constitutional and statutory imperatives, and decide on the most suitable and democratic way for a transformed legal profession to vote. We urge all South Africans, in particular legal practitioners, to support the efforts which are intended to transform the profession.’

Barbara Whittle, Communication Manager, Law Society of South Africa, barbara@lssa.org.za

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2018 (Nov) DR 17.

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