Associations for the legal profession – how can they help you? Cape Town Candidate Attorneys’ Association

February 1st, 2024
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In the previous issue of SA Lawyer, the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) approached legal associations in South Africa (SA) to tell us more about their associations (see ‘Associations for the legal profession’ 2022 (Sept) SA Lawyer 9).

In this issue, Production Editor, Kathleen Kriel, continues with the article and spoke to the Cape Town Candidate Attorneys’ Association.


Cape Town Candidate Attorneys’ Association

 

What is the importance of being a part of your association?

The experience we have as candidate attorneys may only be two short years of our careers in the legal industry, but this short time can be an incredibly stressful and uncertain one. Our goal as the Cape Town Candidate Attorneys’ Association (CTCAA) is to make those two years a positive experience for candidate attorneys by providing free resources and practical guidance as well as opportunities to network, develop as legal professionals and engage socially with other candidates.

Being a part of the association provides candidates with a representative body of their peers who understand the challenges they are facing daily and work to address their concerns, provide useful support structures and actively protect candidate’s rights as a collective.

 

How many active members does your association have?

There is no formal process or application to become a member of the CTCAA and membership is free. Everyone is welcome! We have three WhatsApp groups with over 300 hundred participants respectively. Our membership has grown by word of mouth and through our social media platforms.

 

Please give us a summary of your association’s constitution/vision and/or mission.

The CTCAA aims to promote and represent the interests of candidate attorneys including where necessary to official bodies such as the Legal Practice Council (LPC) and LSSA. The CTCAA also aims to –

  • facilitate engagement and networking between candidate attorneys, members of the legal community and other young professionals in the greater Cape Town area;
  • collaborate with knowledge partners to promote skill development and education of candidate attorneys;
  • establish meaningful support mechanisms and provide guidance to candidate attorneys; and
  • raise funds and collaborate with social justice organisations to meaningfully engage with vulnerable members of our community.

 

How do you engage with your members?

We engage with our members in various ways and on multiple social media platforms. We organise and host social and networking events that our members can attend. We host board preparation classes and oral prep classes for the March and August board examinations each year. We also see each other in and around the High Court, magistrates’ courts, Master’s office, to give a few examples, and assist each other on the ground, daily through our WhatsApp groups.

 

How does your association support young legal practitioners and female legal practitioners in the profession?

As discussed, we have implemented many projects to support young legal practitioners and our Professional Development Portfolio has been involved in various projects focused on empowering female legal practitioners, such as last year’s Women in Law cocktail and networking event, which was co-hosted by University of Cape Town Women in Law and sponsored by Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr (CDH).

We are particularly excited to be launching our first ever podcast mini-series, Women in Law, celebrating 100 years of women in the legal industry. We will be interviewing some exceptional female practitioners in the industry who have agreed to share their experiences and challenges with us. The first episode is scheduled to be released in November 2023.

 

What are the challenges your members are experiencing in practice?

Candidate attorneys still face many challenges in practice, many candidates do not receive a fair minimum wage and are allocated less than 15 days of leave per annum, despite the amount prescribed by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 (BCEA). In this respect, the CTCAA continues to work on opening the lines of communication with the LPC.

The LPC’s announcement of the proposed minimum wage for candidate attorneys in urban and rural areas was a step towards real change and the CTCAA acknowledges the LPC’s continued commitment to engage with us regarding the working conditions of candidate attorneys during articles.

The CTCAA believes that there are still many issues that need to be addressed. The need for standardisation of written employment contracts in adherence to the BCEA remains a fundamental requirement to ensure the rights and fair treatment of all candidates.

Additionally, mandatory subsidisation from law firms of registration fees, for first attempts at writing competency-based examinations, and Legal Education and Development (LEAD) classes; alternatively, provision of financial assistance to those who cannot afford the same. To this end, we suggest the provision of a standard employment contract, accessible to all candidates, and would be happy to assist in the creation of such a document.

 

What benefits would your members like to receive from the LSSA?

The CTCAA is a voluntary non-profit organisation. As such all our funding is generated from our own fundraising efforts, specifically our board prep classes, as well as sponsorship from law firms who agree to partner with us on specific projects. Predictably, this places certain limits on our reach that consistent funding could alleviate, and we would greatly appreciate any opportunities for financial assistance to assist us to implement our initiatives.

Additionally, candidate attorneys do not always have the financial means to purchase the legal courses and webinars that the LSSA offers. Our members could, therefore, greatly benefit from free or discounted legal courses and webinars. The LSSA could also approach law firms with packages for supplementary coursework to prepare for board examinations.

What plans do you have for your members for the future?

The Committee is full of ideas for future projects. Under our Professional Development Portfolio, we are currently planning the second instalment in a three-part series of panel discussions, exploring different career paths for candidates. At the first event, ‘The Partner Track’ (co-hosted by CDH in October 2023), candidates were given the opportunity to hear from three attorneys who shared their journeys from candidate to partner. Our next event, ‘Beyond the Bar’ (a panel discussion for law students and candidates), will look at the career path of clerks, advocates, and judges. The final panel discussion, at our third event, will cover the alternative career paths available to candidates who decide not to become attorneys.

Our Social Responsibility Portfolio is also planning a ‘Bib Drive’ to collect and refurbish second hand court attire which will then be donated to candidate attorneys who cannot afford to purchase these necessities brand new.

In 2024, we hope to host our first annual webinar, ‘Ask a Candidate Anything’, which will be open to all law students (our future candidates) and will provide a space for them to ask all their questions about their upcoming two years of articles.

We are also working on an updated version of our Survival Guide 2022/2023, for release in 2024, and would like to see an increase in collaborative projects with other institutions, such as the Cape Town Attorneys Association and the Cape Bar.

 

Kathleen Kriel BTech (Journ) is the Production Editor at De Rebus.

This article was first published in SA Lawyer in 2024 (January) DR 10.

 

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