Young legal practitioners want to have roles in legal structures

December 1st, 2018
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National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL) member and attorney at Z Tshutshane Attorneys, Zuko Tshutshane, was part of the panel discussing the legal profession through the eyes of young legal practitioners, at the Cape Law Society annual general meeting.

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

The Cape Law Society (CLS) held its last annual general meeting (AGM) in Cape Town in October. National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL) member and attorney at Z Tshutshane Attorneys, Zuko Tshutshane, who was part of a panel discussing the legal profession through the eyes of young legal practitioners, said there is still some level of gate keeping and red tape that does not allow young legal practitioners – especially from poor backgrounds – into the profession.

Mr Tshutshane said the legal profession is not as accessible as it should be and it is refusing to transform. He said when looking at the demographics of the profession at university level, there are more female law students than male, but when looking at the profession those females have disappeared as there are more male legal practitioners. He added that young legal practitioners are not well represented in the different structures of the legal profession, such as at the recently appointed Legal Practice Council (LPC). He noted that young legal practitioners are needed in various legal structures to add their voices to the discussions and focus on issues that affect them as young legal practitioners.

Former student chapter president of the Black Lawyers Association, Luyolo Mahambehlala, spoke about challenges young black legal practitioners face at universities.

Former Black Lawyers Association (BLA) Student Chapter President, Luyolo Mahambehlala, added that when he looks at the legal profession, he sees it through the eyes of a young black legal practitioner. He said the challenges faced by young legal practitioners begin when entering the legal profession through legal education. He pointed out that most young black legal practitioners come from rural backgrounds and in rural areas, where subjects are taught in native languages. He said black law students are faced with a challenge when they enter university, as most subjects are offered in English, and Board Examinations are drawn up in English and Afrikaans.

Mr Mahambehlala said the profession needs to deal with legal education and language policies. He pointed out that the profession needs to tackle transformation and speak about the integration of young legal practitioners. He added that young legal practitioners are frustrated with the fact that challenges affecting them are not discussed in their presence at various structures.

Director at Jason Attorneys Inc, Tarryn Jason, spoke about the journey of starting her own practice as a young legal practitioner.

Director at Jason Attorneys Inc, Tarryn Jason, spoke about the journey of starting her own practice as a young legal practitioner. She said through her journey she has gained valuable experience in both her personal and professional life. She added that experience is the key to perspective, which allows one to look at things from a different angle. She noted that through experience and perspective she is able to appreciate life in the legal profession.

Ms Jason said young legal practitioners must always be ready to learn. She pointed out that there is so much more to the legal profession than has been portrayed by the media or by television series. She added that the legal profession provides legal practitioners with a variety of ways to practice and in areas of expertise one would not realise existed.

Ms Jason said the legal profession has many opportunities and law is not just about litigation and arguing in court, but about the hours of research that goes into it. It is the interpretation of the legislation and how legal practitioners apply it to best suit their clients. She added that it is complex solution finding that legal practitioners do on a daily basis.

Past president and former councillor of the Cape Law Society, Sithembile Mgxaji, spoke about the role of the Black Lawyers Association and the National Association of Democratic Lawyers in the Cape Law Society and the legal profession.

Ms Jason said law brings social order. She added that when she decided to leave her pharmaceutical career to study law, she felt like the legal profession was a beacon of hope for anyone aspiring to be something honourable. She pointed out that law gives those who practice it the opportunity to give back to the community and the less fortunate. ‘The legal profession is a great school of life, it gives us the ability to help those around us make good choices in life,’ Ms Jason said.

Reflection on the past

Past president and former councillor of the CLS, Daryl Burman, started his presentation by responding to the discussion that was held by young legal practitioners. He said young legal practitioners should not write off the older generation of the profession yet, as the older generation has a lot to offer. Mr Burman added that transformation has been evolving in the legal profession and it shows progress.

Past president and former councillor of the CLS, Sithembile Mgxaji, said the participation of the BLA and NADEL in the legal profession was intended to make sure that there is transparency in governance of the legal profession. He added that BLA and NADEL started off by tackling an important matter, which is the issue regarding the disciplinary procedures of legal practitioners and how the processes have been handled. He said BLA and NADEL gave new perspective on disciplinary matters.

The longest serving member of the Cape Law Society (CLS) council, Peter Horn, reflected on his time as a council member of the CLS. He spoke about three highlights in his career over the years in the profession.

The longest serving member of the CLS council, Peter Horn, reflected on his time as a council member. He spoke about three highlights in his career over the years. Mr Horn said in the 50s and 60s in what was called the Bantu Divorce Court, he appeared in a divorce matter against the late Oliver Tambo. He said it was a great honour to have been on that matter.

Mr Horn added that in the 90s one of his proudest moments was the honour of presenting the International Peace Medal to the late President Nelson Mandela. Mr Horn referred to his friendship with the late Robert Sobukwe. He said they became colleagues and friends when they were working in Kimberley. Mr Horn pointed out that in his time at the CLS he served under 14 presidents and six directors. He added that through the years he has found it a rewarding experience serving as a councillor of the CLS.

Mr Horn said the experience he gained, gave him a new perspective of the legal profession. He said he loved serving on the council and will miss gatherings such as AGM’s, where friends in the legal profession would gather.

Mr Horn noted that in his personal observations the recent past relationships between constituents has not been a great one. He pointed out that the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (LPA) must address the matter. He added that those representing legal practitioners must move away from self-interest and hidden agendas, but rather work in the interest of legal practitioners and in the interest of the public.

Western Cape Division of the High Court Judge, Taswell Papier, said despite achievements and progress made in the legal profession, there is still more that needs to be done.

Western Cape Division of the High Court Judge, Taswell Papier, said the legal profession has come a long way. He added that the achievements are very significant and having recognised that, there is still a long way to go. He pointed out that progress has been made and the foundation has been laid.

Judge Papier said the objective of the LPA is an exciting birth for the attorneys Bar. He pointed out that he had refused to refer to the attorney’s profession as a side Bar. ‘We fought for the equalisation of the profession, we are all legal practitioners,’ Judge Papier added. He noted that the myth about advocates being above attorneys should be dispelled.

Judge Papier pointed out that the LPA must be claimed by the legal practitioners and the legal profession and moulded into a document that is to be transformative in its objective and inspiration going forward. He added that the legal profession needed a new generation of legal practitioners who work differently and smarter.

Discussion on the LPA

BLA President and Executive member of the LPC, Lutendo Sigogo, gave an update on the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 and the Legal Practice Council.

The BLA President and Executive member of the LPC, Lutendo Sigogo, said chs 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9 of the LPA became operational on 1 November. Chapter 5 would not come into operation as yet as it deals with the Ombud and the Ombud will only come into existence later. He added that s 35 will not be operational as yet, but only the section that deals with the Law Reform Commission. Provisions dealing with introduction of tariffs and cost estimates will be suspended.

Mr Sigogo pointed out that top of the list for the LPC, is the appointment of the disciplinary committee; the governance committee, which will start with policies and transformation; and the finances and life of the committee. He said the LPC will also look at the regulations dealing with elections of the provincial council. He added that r 16 of the LPC rules needed to be re-drafted as it may delay the process of elections for provincial councils.

Member of the LPC, Krish Govender, answered a question posed to him with regard to the dress code of legal practitioners. He said much was said at the National Forum on the Legal Profession about the dress code. He said recommendations were made that the profession have a uniformed system for all legal practitioners.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2018 (Dec) DR 8.

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