Becoming a legal practitioner is the best way to fight for vulnerable people

November 1st, 2023
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For the November Young Thought Leader feature column, De Rebus spoke to Wian Spies.

For the November Young Thought Leader feature column, De Rebus spoke to Wian Spies who was born in Pretoria. He is the eldest of four children. In 2012, he started high school at the Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool (Affies) in Pretoria. Mr Spies said that during his school days he enjoyed playing soccer (for the Hollandia Football Club), indoor soccer, cricket and hockey. ‘I particularly loved History as a school subject. History is also to this day the subject that has shaped my way of thinking the most and assisted me in my career to a very large extent. In this regard I will forever have much appreciation for Ms Schoeman who was our high school History teacher,’ Mr Spies said.

After matric he enrolled as an LLB student at the University of Pretoria and stayed in Sonop, a privately owned student residence, during his studies. He completed his LLB degree in 2020 and was also elected as the Primarius of Sonop. In the same year he also commenced his LLM.

Mr Spies said that his mother and father always encouraged him and his siblings to attempt new things, to be independent and to finish what they have started. ‘I believe that after studying for six years and completing my articles this year would not have been possible if I was not taught the way I was taught,’ Mr Spies said.

 

Kgomotso Ramotsho (KR): Why did you choose to study law? Have you completed your LLM degree? What made you choose Procedural Law?

Wian Spies (WS): From a young age I have always questioned the way of doing things. In primary school I would often argue with my teachers on why things are regarded a certain way. The arguing would, understandably, frustrate the teachers and I would often lead to some form of punishment. Punishment generally involved having to go to detention with other kids who broke the rules. These kids are often referred to today as ‘clients’.

I have always had a strong sense of justice. I hated to see vulnerable people being treated unfairly. I have always felt the urge to fight for these people and becoming a legal practitioner was the best way I could do so.

I have recently also graduated with my LLM degree in Procedural Law. My dissertation topic was ‘Private prosecutions in South Africa’, for the readers of this article who are interested, the dissertation can be accessed at: https://repository.up.ac.za. In the dissertation, I inter alia discussed the development of the principles of private prosecutions globally, as well as in South Africa and investigated the impact thereof on the criminal justice system in the post-Apartheid era and explored ways for the transformation of the criminal justice system by promoting private prosecutions.

I believe that I chose this topic as it forms part of my humanity and identity. I enjoyed writing the dissertation and experienced reading for and writing a dissertation to be a very enriching experience.

 

KR: What field of law do you specialise in?

WS: I specialise in General Litigation. I would not necessarily regard myself as an expert in the field yet as I have only been working in the field as a candidate attorney for 20 months and as an admitted legal practitioner since 15 August 2023. I obtained experience in personal injury matters, third-party claims, civil litigation, criminal law, debt collection, firearms law, professional negligence matters, homeowners associations and rental housing matters, mining law and evictions.

 

KR: What is it that you enjoy about being a legal practitioner?

WS: I enjoy being able to stand up for people who are being bullied and/or treated unfairly.

 

KR: What are some challenges you have encountered being a legal practitioner?

WS: As a young legal practitioner, I often get the idea that opposing senior/more senior legal practitioners underestimates my knowledge and skill. I do, however, believe that I prefer it that way.

 

KR: What are the two qualities that a legal practitioner should have?

WS: I believe that a legal practitioner should always have very good people skills. Interaction with people is one of the main attributes to our profession and being able to communicate with people is in my opinion the most important quality a legal practitioner should have.

A legal practitioner should have a moral compass. For me my moral compass is the Bible.

 

KR: If you could change anything about the state of the legal profession in South Africa, what would you change?

WS: To revert to the status quo ante before the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 came into operation, with the two professions (attorneys and advocates) regulating themselves independently and without interference.

 

KR: Tell us about your role in the Pretoria Attorneys Association (PAA).

WS: I am part of the High Court subcommittee at the PAA. The idea of the subcommittee is to inter alia assist the court with difficulties to ensure smooth court proceedings and more efficient administration. I am of the view that being part of an association, such as the PAA is essential to ensure that the profession develops and improves on all levels. Given the fact that I work in general litigation especially in High Court matters, I thought that assisting under this portfolio made the most sense and is the place where I can add some value.

 

KR: Is your father a legal practitioner? Did this influence you to become an attorney?

WS: My father is also a legal practitioner practicing as an attorney. It most certainly did. My father introduced me to the profession by taking me to some of his hearings and sharing some of his interesting stories.

 

KR: Why did you choose to practice at VZLR Attorneys and not Hurter Spies Inc?

WS: I decided not to apply for articles at Hurter Spies Inc as I felt that it will benefit me more to do my articles at another firm, especially a well-established firm such as VZLR Attorneys. I am very privileged to be able to practice and learn from some of the best attorneys in Pretoria practicing at VZLR Attorneys.  I am forever grateful for the opportunity that VZLR Attorneys has provided me to learn and get exposure to some of the most interesting parts of law.

I do, however, intend to join the team at Hurter Spies Inc in future.

 

KR: Did you suffer a sports injury playing hockey in High School? How did that effect you?

WS: I suffered a sports injury during one of South Africa’s biggest school rivalries; Affies versus Grey College in Bloemfontein in May 2015 when I was in Grade 11. I was hit by a hockey ball just above my right temple and sustained a depressed skull fracture, for which I had to receive emergency neurosurgery. I missed three weeks of school as a result of the surgery. I am, however, very grateful for the fact that I to have no serious long-term effects as a result of the sports injury.

 

KR: What are some of your future goals in the legal profession?

WS: Future goals in the legal profession for me would be –

  • to become an expert in certain fields of law, especially constitutional law and the law of delict;
  • to serve people;
  • to serve my community; and
  • to be successful in helping the ‘little guy’ with their legal battles.

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

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2023 (Nov) DR 22.

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