The war against corruption discussed at LSSA conference – day 2

July 19th, 2019
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By Mapula Sedutla and Kgomotso Ramotsho

On the second day of the the Law Society of South Africa’s (LSSA’s) annual conference in Pretoria, topical issues were discussed once again. Below is a report on day two of the conference by editor of De Rebus, Mapula Sedutla,  and news reporter, Kgomotso Ramotsho, report on day two of the annual conference.

Legal practitioner, Nkhensani Manyike, reported on the survey of young lawyers that was conducted by the Law Society of South Africa.

Young legal practitioners survey results

On Saturday, 30 March, the AGM started with the session on #Our young lawyers. The results of the Young Lawyers Survey was presented by legal practitioner, Nkhensani Manyike. Ms Manyike said the LSSA took it on itself to understand what can be done for young legal practitioners and how the LSSA can assist young legal practitioners who are the future of the profession. She pointed out that the LSSA conducted the survey with the aim of finding out the true perception, views, fears, challenges and needs of young legal practitioners. She added that the LSSA’s survey, targeted legal practitioners who are 35 and younger, as well as legal practitioners over 35, but who have been practicing for less than five years.

Ms Manyike said in terms of percentages –

  • 45% of the respondents were based in Gauteng;
  • 17% were based in the Western Cape;
  • 14% were from KwaZulu-Natal; and
  • 26% of the respondents were from the remaining six provinces.

The survey covered areas regarding work life, career expectations and what the LSSA could do for young legal practitioners.

Member of the LSSA Women’s Task Team, Noxolo Maduba-Silevu said she would have preferred to see more questions being asked in the survey regarding sexual harassment in the profession. She added that there is sexual harassment taking place, especially towards female legal practitioners. She said it would have been interesting to see how the LSSA would resolve the issue of sexual harassment and how it would change the mindset of senior practitioners about the working conditions of candidate legal practitioners.

To access the full report of the survey, visit www.LSSA.org.za

Conveyancing examinations

Conveyancing examiner, Anton Theron, said there is no gatekeeping in the conveyancing arena.

Conveyancing examiner, Anton Theron, said he did not see why there is a debate on whether there should be a conveyancing examination. He added that conveyancing is a specialised field and should be maintained as such, not for gatekeeping purposes, but purely to protect the public and to protect young legal practitioners.  He said conveyancing is one of the pillars of keeping the land registration solid and keeping institutions, such as banks, in line.

Mr Theron said he was recently asked, why it was so difficult to purchase an RDP house, which costs less than buying an expensive luxury car that might cost millions. He pointed out that there was a huge difference between the documents that needed to be signed when buying a house and a car. He added that the challenge examiners encounter when it comes to the conveyancing examination, is that candidates underestimate the volume of work when preparing for the conveyancing examination. He said you cannot prepare in less than six months to write the conveyancing examination.

The outgoing Co-chairperson and current President of the LSSA, Mvuzo Notyesi, said he was contacted on a daily basis – by not only young practitioners – but by all practitioners and also members of society, who ask about the relevance of a course that is reserved for a few individuals. He added that it was known that when a legal practitioner writes the conveyancing examination they will not pass and will have to re-write the examination seven or eight times before they pass. He added that conveyancing is dominated by white males to the exclusion of others, which is wrong. He said that the conveyancing examiners need to be reviewed, he said the examiners are the ones who prepare course materials and the conveyancing course is expensive.

Mr Notyesi asked: If conveyancing is taken away would there be a reason to preserve an area of work that is only preserved to perpetuate injustice? He added that to protect the conveyancing examination there must be a review of examiners and also have the examination written over more than one day. Mr Notyesi noted that the LSSA must look into providing training in conveyancing that will take three to six months to complete.

Legal practitioner Mfana Gwala added that there is a perception that the conveyancing examination is used as a gatekeeping tool, and those who pass the conveyancing examination are white, because there are very few black firms who practice in this space. He said this perception must be dealt with. He pointed out that there was consensus that the nature of conveyancing is more practical. ‘My observation is that there is a disjuncture with the current training and the actual exam itself. There is no point in teaching people theory, when the examination is practical,’ Mr Gwala said. ‘We need to re-look at the training and let LEAD look at the course that can take six months where necessary, but the bulk of people must physically start a process where they lodge a deed at the Deeds Office and make sure that a property is transferred,’ Mr Gwala added.

Legal Practice Council member, Krish Govender said the issue of conveyancing cannot be separated from the land question in the country. ‘I salute black women who passed their conveyancing examination despite all the everyday gender challenges in this country,’  and added that the legal profession must be made accessible in a manner that is fair. He said there is a serious racial issue and anti-competitive issues in the conveyancing space. He said the other issue that no one talks about, is the fact that the percentage of money that comes from the theft of conveyancing transactions and how conveyancing practices are the highest risk to the Legal Practitioners’ Fidelity Fund.

Conveyancing examiner, Pumla Mncwango, took part in a conveyancing discussion at the Law Society of South Africa’s annual conference.

Responding to a comment from the floor, conveyancing examiner, Pumla Mncwango, said that it was correctly pointed out, that gatekeeping is a perception. She added that she had the same perception that she would write the examination and fail prior to her going to write the examination. However, she said that she wrote the examination once and passed.

Ms Mncwango said she had never heard of conveyancing until she arrived at university. She pointed out that in her time there was a course called ‘The Law of Things’, which had concentrated on a little bit of conveyancing. She pointed out that even after passing the course, she was not confident that she would be admitted as a conveyancer.

Ms Mncwango told delegates of her experience before writing the conveyancing examination. The firm she had been working at was a small law firm in Durban and they did not deal with conveyancing matters. She added that down the road from the law firm she was working, there was another law firm that dealt with conveyancing matters. She said she approached the principal at that law firm and asked if she could work at their conveyancing department every day for an hour during her lunch time. The principal agreed as long as she could arrive on time and not expect any payment in return. Ms Mncwango said she worked for an hour every day for eight months before she wrote the conveyancing examination.

Ms Mncangwo added that when candidates write the examination they do not indicate their race or name on the examination, they just write their examination number. She added that the examiner cannot identify candidates by their race. Ms Mncwango said in the Eastern Cape there are four examiners and each examiner is allocated to mark a section on the script, one examiner does not get to mark the entire script. She also pointed out that there is no way that there is gatekeeping in the area of conveyancing, but it is up to the candidate to prepare well in advance in order to pass the examination.

Conveyancing examiner, Kuki Seegobin, suggested that the Law Society of South Africa should look at an online course on conveyancing to reach legal practitioners.

Conveyancing examiner, Kuki Seegobin added that it is not correct that conveyancing is dominated by white males, she said for the past few years the demographics have changed, as there are almost 60%, if not more, females who are writing the conveyancing examinations. She pointed out that it is interesting that when it comes to the oral examinations a number of female legal practitioners take the oral examination when they are on maternity leave, or when they are trying to re-enter the legal profession. When asked why they take conveyancing the legal practitioner believes it gives them the ideal value of trying to raise a family and work at the same time.

Ms Seegobin said she knows that the LSSA needs to be on board but, if legal practitioners are going to be encouraged to write the conveyancing examination, candidates from outlying areas should participate in online training as it would be logistically difficult for a legal practitioner to attend the course.

Risk in practice

A panel discussion was held titled ‘Addressing risk in your practice’. Speakers in the panel included, Johannesburg attorney, Lucien Pierce; Marketing Consultant, Zanele Bacela; and General Manager at the Legal Practitioners’ Indemnity Insurance Fund NPC, Thomas Harban.

Mr Pierce presented on: ‘Cybersecurity considerations for legal practitioners preparing for when, not if, it happens!’ He noted that when it comes to cybersecurity, law firms are like gold to hackers because of the sensitive information they keep. ‘During the period of 2011 to 2015, 80% of large United States law firms had a cyber or data breach. This does not mean that small law firms are not targets. Small law firms need to be equally vigilant when it comes to cybersecurity,’ Mr Pierce added. For the full presentation see: www.LSSA.org.za

Marketing Consultant, Zanele Bacela, presented on ‘The risk of not marketing your legal practice’.

Ms Bacela presented on ‘The risk of not marketing your legal practice’. The presentation focused on personal branding and how it is established. Ms Bacela said legal practitioners should always show their authentic selves. ‘Personal branding allows you to stand out and differentiate yourself by establishing and articulating your unique value proposition. Then leveraging it across multiple platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal,’ she added. For the full presentation see: www.LSSA.org.za

Mr Harban’s topic of discussion was ‘Managing business risk in a legal practice’. The presentation covered –

  • risk management in the broad South African environment;
  • the need for risk management in legal practices; and
  • practical examples of risk management measures that practitioners can consider.

Mr Harban noted that legal practitioners do not operate in a vacuum and are thus affected by the broader business risk environment. He added: ‘Macro-economic factors also affect legal practices – it will be noted that, in South Africa and many other jurisdictions internationally, increases in professional indemnity claims against professionals coincide with a slowdown in economic growth (as happened during the general financial services crisis in 2008).’ For the full presentation see: www.LSSA. org.za

Mapula Sedutla NDip Journ (DUT) BTech (Journ) (TUT) is the editor of De Rebus and Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.

 

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