Slow progress to Legal Practice Act dispensation

November 1st, 2017
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By Barbara Whittle

The National Forum on the Legal Profession (NF) met on Saturday, 14 October for its tenth plenary meeting. It resolved to deliver its recommendations to Justice Minister, Michael Masutha, before the end of October on the following issues, in terms of s 97(1)(a) of the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (LPA) –

  • election of councillors for the Legal Practice Council (LPC);
  • areas of jurisdiction of provincial councils (PCs);
  • the composition, powers and functions of PCs;
  • right of appearance of candidate legal practitioners;
  • mechanisms to wind-up the NF; and
  • the costing and funding of the LPC.

These aspects have been agreed and finalised.

The NF will hand the minister four sets of recommendations relating to practical vocational training (PVT): One by the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) on behalf of the attorneys’ profession, a second by the General Council of the Bar and Advocates for Transformation, a third by  the National Forum of Advocates, and a fourth, which is a compromise proposal. In the meantime the NF stakeholders have undertaken to consider the compromise proposal, and if substantial consensus was reached, they would inform the minister of the agreement.

Within six months of receiving the above recommendations, as well as the draft regulations based thereon, the minister must take these to Parliament. If he wishes to amend the draft regulations, he must consult the NF.

The NF also has to make some of the rules of the future LPC in terms of s 109(2) by publishing them in the Government Gazette by 31 October, for comment by interested parties. The rules relate to examinations or assessments for admission, conveyancing and notarial practice; PVT, procedures for disciplinary bodies and issues relating to complaints against legal practitioners. These have been finalised by the NF, except for the aspects relating to PVT.

One of the outstanding issues is the transfer of staff and assets from the provincial law societies to the LPC. The law societies wish to retain a portion of their cash assets to transfer to the LSSA or its successor in title in order to fund activities to represent and support legal practitioners. It is envisaged that the LPC will perform purely regulatory functions.

In the meantime, approval by Parliament of the Legal Practice Amendment Bill was awaited at the time of writing. The Bill will amend the implementation timeframes in the Act to allow the four statutory law societies to continue to regulate the attorneys’ profession for a six-month period while the LPC comes into operation, but without jurisdiction. This will allow for a proper and orderly handover. The Justice Portfolio Committee was scheduled to meet with the NF on the Amendment Bill on 24 October.

  • The latest developments on the Legal Practice Act can be found on the LSSA website at www.LSSA.org.za under the ‘Legal Practice Act’ tab.

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

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2017 (Nov) DR 7.

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