Candidate legal practitioners get advice from High Court judges

May 8th, 2020

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

The Johannesburg Attorneys Association held a function for candidate legal practitioners on 12 March in Johannesburg. The aim of the function was for candidate legal practitioners to get first hand advice and motivation from High Court judges in the country. High Court Judges, Phillip Boruchowitz, Nomsa Khumalo, Roland Sutherland and Willem Wepener, spoke at the function.

High Court Judge, Phillip Boruchowitz spoke at the Johannesburg Attorneys Association’s candidate legal practitioners function held on 12 March in Johannesburg

Judge Boruchowitz told the candidate legal practitioners that if they want to be effective legal practitioners, they would have to have a practical and working knowledge of –

  • the rules and procedures; and
  • the mechanics of how the courts work.

He said it is far better to understand that, than to have a theoretical knowledge of the law.

He added that the greatest asset, which should motivate every action of a legal practitioner, is to maintain credibility and integrity. He pointed out that if a legal practitioner steps out of line, it will be remembered by other legal practitioners, magistrates and judges, which will result in a lifetime of consequences where they will be perceived differently.

Judge Wepener referred to the words of United States Judge, John Parker, when he said that: ‘While the elements of gain and service are present in both [trade and profession], the difference between a business and a profession is essentially this: The chief end of a trade or business is personal gain; the chief end of a profession is public service’. Judge Wepener pointed out that one does not think that anymore, but it remains true that whatever a professional does, affects the public at the end of the day.

High Court Judge, Willem Wepener, told candidate legal practitioners that ploughing back into the community is important.

Judge Wepener noted the function of a legal practitioner, their reason for existence, is not primarily to make money or to assist others in their personal struggle, but to give peace and order to society. He said practising in the legal profession, involves a legal practitioner, in three fundamental relationships, namely the relationship between –

  • the legal practitioner and their client;
  • the legal practitioner and the law; and
  • a legal practitioner and the community.

He said the standard of the profession grows out of these relationships.

Judge Wepener added that with regard to the relationship between a legal practitioner and their client, the client will entrust all their secrets with the legal practitioner, secrets that they would not even share with their pastor or physician, because they know it is safe with the legal practitioner. He said that in the relationship the legal practitioner has with the law, it is important for the legal practitioner to develop their skills by continuing to acquire knowledge in order to develop their quality of service, which they will be capable of rendering. Regarding the relationship with the community, he added that it takes a bit of time for a legal practitioner to plough back into the community, often without remuneration, and this is the last leg that makes a legal practitioner a professional.

High Court Judge, Roland Sutherland, said legal practitioners exist to help solve people’s problems.

Judge Sutherland added that legal practitioners exist to help other people solve their problems. He told the candidate legal practitioners that if they will not be the kind of legal practitioners that want to help people, they are going to be unhappy legal practitioners. He said that candidate legal practitioners need to engage with other people, as there is not much in life one can achieve on their own, even in the legal profession. Judge Sutherland told the candidate legal practitioners that they need to develop themselves in a relationship with magistrates and judges. He said magistrates and judges are consumers of a legal practitioner’s services and the customer is always right, he added that if legal practitioners understand what the customer needs, they can adapt themselves to be more effective.

High Court Judge, Nomsa Khumalo told female candidates legal practitioners that they need to focus and have courage, as it is more challenging for women in the profession

Judge Khumalo, who was the only female judge at the event, told the candidate legal practitioners that many male legal practitioners are making it in the profession, while female legal practitioners try but they struggle. She directed her talk to the female candidate legal practitioners who attended the function. She said that the view of the judiciary must change, that the judiciary needs a female perspective. She added that there are more challenges for women in the legal profession, and many other professions, than there are for men. She pointed out that women in the legal profession need to focus and have courage.

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