Outward retrospection

November 27th, 2015
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Mapula Thebe - editor

Mapula Thebe – editor

As we wrap up 2015, this is the opportune time to take stock of the year that has past and look at issues, topics and events that were at the forefront of the legal profession.

Without a doubt, the enactment and partial implementation of the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (LPA), in September 2014, has been one of the most important events for practitioners in 2015. The LPA was once again a prevalent topic at the annual general meetings (AGM) of the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society (KZNLS), Cape Law Society (CLS), Black Lawyers Association (BLA) and the Law Society of the Northern Provinces (see AGM news section in this issue).

By now practitioners should be aware of the developments that have been brought about by the LPA, namely the formation of the National Forum (NF). The NF is a transitional body, which will be in existence for a period not exceeding three years and will deliberate on issues that may arise once the LPA is looked at in detail by those who form the body. Incoming President of the BLA and NF member, Lutendo Sigogo, aptly described the function of the NF by saying that the NF ‘is a midwife trying to give birth’ to the Legal Practice Council (see ‘BLA AGM: Black lawyers can handle complex matters’ in this issue).

So far the progress made by NF is by forming committees that will focus on various issues pertaining to the LPA and delivering the first report to the Minister of Justice, Michael Masutha. In his address at the CLS conference, Minister Masutha said that the profession needed to focus on two aspects, namely:

  • The regulation of the fee structure in the profession to bring an element of fairness and improve accessibility. ‘The idea is not to starve lawyers, but to make sure that the cost of litigation, which makes the profession inaccessible to the majority of people, is corrected,’ he said.
  • The need to regulate and regularise the paralegal profession to ensure its sustainability, given its critical contribution and role in access to justice (see ‘Justice Minister focuses on transformation at Cape Law Society AGM’ in this issue).

Attorneys should note that the main function of the Legal Practice Council, during the LPA dispensation, will be to focus on regulation and on matters of public interest. This then leaves a lacuna in the sense that there would not be a body that will focus on matters of interest to the profession. The solution to this lacuna was discussed at length at all the above AGMs. Co-chairperson of the Law Society of South Africa, Richard Scott, spoke about the solution at the KZNLS AGM. He said: ‘The LPC will not protect the interest of the profession; it will rather protect the interest of the public. It was resolved that practitioners should form a voluntary body that will uphold the rule of law and protect legal practitioners. This body must be based on constitutional democracy. There is no doubt that practitioners need such a body’ (see KwaZulu-Natal Law Society AGM: Legal Practice Act at the core of deliberations’ in this issue).

Other trending topics that were highlighted during the AGMS included, transformation, briefing patterns, s 35 of the LPA (which deals with fees) and South Africa’s position regarding the International Criminal Court.

 

The De Rebus Editorial Committee and staff wish all of our readers compliments of the season and a prosperous new year. De Rebus will be back in 2016 with its combined January/February edition, which will be sent out at the beginning of February.

 

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This article was first published in De Rebus in 2015 (Dec) DR 3.

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