BLA requests six to 12 months funding for small law firms affected by the lockdown

May 1st, 2020

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

The Black Lawyers Association (BLA) said in a statement that it had noted the lockdown extension announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa to ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19 (the coronavirus) until 30 April. The BLA stated: ‘We agree with the State President that the struggle against the coronavirus is far from over and that if we end the lockdown too soon or too abruptly, we risk a massive and uncontrollable resurgence of the disease’.

The statement further said that the BLA continues to engage various stakeholders to minimise the economic impact on members of the legal profession and the legal profession at large. The statement added that the extension of the lockdown would see struggling legal practitioners retrenching staff or closing down their practices. The BLA pointed out that the pandemic came at a desperate time in South Africa’s economy as the economy was downgraded to junk status by rating agencies.

The BLA said that it is alive to the challenges faced by legal practitioners and the legal profession, and they have initiated steps to cushion the impact of the lockdown. The BLA added that they continue to interact with processes to make sure it fosters and protects the interest of its members.

On 27 March, the BLA said it had requested the Legal Practitioners’ Fidelity Fund (LPFF) to establish a R 1 billion fund to assist small law firms and advocates to cushion the financial burden as a consequence of the lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic. The BLA pointed out that at the time it requested funding for three months, but have now extended the request for six to 12 months.

The BLA added that it has since enhanced its request to the entire legal profession for support of this initiative. The organisation noted that it has approached the Justice Minister, the Law Society of South Africa, the Legal Practice Council, the General Council of the Bar, the South African Women Lawyers Association, the National Association of Democratic Lawyers and the LPFF with a compelling case as to why this is vital for the existence of the legal profession.

The BLA further stated that the LPFF is seeking a legal opinion to determine the legality and/ or permissibility of the BLA’s request.

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