LSSA Task Team interrogates Legal Practice Bill and plans to meet with advocates on way forward

July 1st, 2012
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By Barbara Whittle

The publication of the long-awaited Legal Practice Bill was announced by Justice Minister Jeff Radebe during his budget vote address in mid-May and was published that same evening. The Bill was then gazetted as the Legal Practice Bill (B20 of 2012) and tabled in parliament on 30 May 2012.

The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) Task Team interrogated the Bill in mid-June with a view to preparing the LSSA’s comments to the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development. The LSSA was also to meet with representatives of the General Council of the Bar early in July to discuss possible common areas of agreement and concern.

Welcoming the Bill soon after the Minister’s announcement in May, LSSA co-chairpersons Krish Govender and Jan Stemmett said in a press release: ‘The Legal Practice Bill contains a number of good provisions, but where we believe there is room for improvement, we will engage the Justice Department, the Justice Portfolio Committee and other stakeholders to deal with any aspect which may be a cause for concern.’

In addition, Mr Stemmett and Mr Govender indicated that the LSSA would participate in the transitional process after implementation of the Act, confident that the Transitional Council envisaged in the Bill would set in place the necessary framework to ensure a better dispensation for the profession and for the public, whom the profession serves.

‘This Bill has been in the making for more than a decade, and throughout that process, the LSSA has been cooperating with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and other stakeholders as it has been of the view that the existing Attorneys Act [53] of 1979 is outdated and needs to be replaced with new legislation that unites the legal profession, complies with the Constitution, the Competition Act [89 of 1998] and transformation imperatives. In addition, the Bill must do the necessary to guarantee that the profession is governed and regulated in the best way to serve the public interest, while maintaining the independence of the profession. The Bill must ensure access to justice for members of the public and equitable access to the profession and to legal work for legal practitioners,’ said the co-chairpersons.

The Bill states its aim as follows: ‘To provide a legislative framework for the transformation and restructuring of the legal profession in line with constitutional imperatives; to provide for the establishment, powers and functions of a single South African Legal Practice Council and regional councils in order to regulate the affairs of legal practitioners, and to set norms and standards; to provide for the admission, enrolment and registration of legal practitioners; to regulate the professional conduct of legal practitioners so as to ensure accountable conduct; to provide for the establishment of an Office of a Legal Services Ombud and for the appointment, powers and functions of a Legal Services Ombud; to provide for an Attorneys Fidelity Fund and an Attorneys Fidelity Fund board of control; to provide for the establishment, powers and functions of a Transitional South African Legal Practice Council; and to provide for matters connected therewith.’

The Legal Practice Bill can be downloaded from the LSSA website at www.LSSA.org.za. The LSSA has urged attorneys to read and interrogate the Bill and to submit comments to the LSSA so that these can be passed on to the task team for consideration. Practitioners wishing to submit comments can e-mail these to the chief executive officer, Nic Swart, at: contact@LSSA.org.za or fax them to (012) 362 0969.

Compiled by Barbara Whittle, communication manager, Law Society of South Africa, barbara@lssa.org.za

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2012 (July) DR 15.