Former President of LSSA calls on youth to be active within the organisation

May 1st, 2023
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The former President of the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA), Mabaeng Denise Lenyai, called on the legal profession’s youth to join the LSSA Youth Forum. Ms Lenyai was addressing members of the LSSA at the Annual Conference and Annual General Meeting (AGM) that was held in Johannesburg on 24 and 25 March 2023, under the theme ‘Committed to building a better legal profession for all’. She said that the youth should be vocal about how they want things to be done and should raise up their hands to lead this forum. Ms Lenyai challenged the youth to take the baton. She pointed out that many senior legal practitioners are ready to step down from their leading roles, however, she added that senior legal practitioners cannot step down if there is no one to handover to.

Former President of the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA), Mabaeng Denise Lenyai called on the youth to join the LSSA’s Youth Forum and to be active in the forum.

Ms Lenyai said they do not want to pick and point fingers at anyone, adding that that creates a problem, because there is no commitment and passion for those serving the LSSA and the legal profession. ‘We need people with passion to serve, people who are going to have the commitment, because at the LSSA we work, we do not play,’ Ms Lenyai said. She added that the senior practitioners are ready to groom younger legal practitioners, to assist with the management of the LSSA with corporate governance.

Ms Lenyai spoke about the South African Law Reform Commission Discussion Paper: Project 142: Investigation into Legal Fees – Including Access to Justice and other Interventions (Section 35 of the Legal Practice Act) and the draft Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Legal Sector Code of Good Practice (the Legal Sector Code). She pointed out that the Legal Sector Code submissions have been made and that the legal profession was waiting on the Minister of Justice to address them on when the implementation will take place, adding that the profession should join forces with the LSSA and the Legal Practice Council (LPC) to get further answers regarding the Legal Sector Code. Ms Lenyai added that the LSSA has also engaged with the LPC, the Legal Practitioners’ Fidelity Fund (LPFF) and the Legal Practitioners Indemnity Insurance Fund NPC (LPIIF), regarding the ways the legal profession can still deliver access to justice to the public, but also making sure that legal practitioners are able to put bread on the table for their families.

Ms Lenyai said that the LPC has increased its members fees, and the LPFF, LPIIF are intending to start levying legal practitioners before the end of 2023 for professional indemnity (PI) cover. Ms Lenyai added that the LSSA is engaging with those organisations to discuss the levy. Ms Lenyai said that members should engage with the LPFF and LPIIF to plead that the amount is not too high as this would cause some legal practitioners to close their law firms.

Ms Lenyai also touched on the work that is done by the LSSA Women’s Task Team, dealing with issues that female legal practitioners deal with, such as among others, skewed briefing patterns. She said that the LSSA has distributed a survey for female legal practitioners to answer, however, she pointed out that they are not getting feedback from female practitioners. She urged them to participate in the survey so that the LSSA Women’s Task Team will know on which issues to assist female practitioners. She added that the Institute for African Women in Law would like to partner with the LSSA in their efforts in trying to find ways to make it easier for female legal practitioners to stay in the legal profession and rise to the top.

Ms Lenyai spoke about the sustainability issues within the LSSA and said the House of Constituents (HoC) has decided that the LSSA will start collecting a member’s fee from its members. She announced that the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL) and the independent structures have agreed, and they are willing to be levied by the LSSA at the proposed amount of R 300 per person per annum. She pointed out that the Black Lawyers Association (BLA) is still engaging with the proposal.

To download the LSSA’s annual report, visit www.LSSA.org.za.

Keynote address

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, delivered the keynote address at the AGM. He told members that he was aware of the challenges that the legal profession is facing, one of which, is loadshedding. Mr Lamola said loadshedding is not only affecting legal practitioners, but also the operations of the courts, livelihoods, and social lives of the country. He added that it is an existential challenge that the president has identified as an existential crisis. He said he was aware of the impact it has on small law firms and operations of the courts. He pointed out that the Department of Justice is engaging with the new Minister of Electricity, to see whether they can exempt courts from loadshedding. He added that the Department of Justice is also engaging with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure on alternative sources of energy for the operations of some courts. He said the reality is that they cannot do it for every court in the country.

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola was the keynote speaker at the Law Society of South Africa’s Annual Conference and Annual General Meeting, which was held on 24 and 25 March 2023.

Mr Lamola said that he is aware of the challenges at the Master’s Office, which the legal profession has been raising. He added that they are looking into those challenges. He pointed out that they have come to the conclusion that they can help to provide efficiency in the Master’s Office through modernisation, digitisation, and the filling of vacancies in that office. Mr Lamola pointed out that there has been a back and forth on some regulations regarding the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (LPA). He mentioned that the Legal Sector Code also had to be promulgated in terms of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act 53 of 2003. He said the Legal Sector Code is with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, ready to be gazetted. He pointed out that he has seen the letters from the LSSA, BLA and NADEL regarding the Legal Sector Code and he has forwarded the letters to the relevant people. He added that he also has written a letter of support for the Legal Sector Code to be promulgated.

During the question-and-answer session with Mr Lamola, LPC Council Member, Busani Mabunda, said that Mr Lamola should use any other means to influence the promulgation of the Legal Sector Code because nothing has been done with the document currently. Legal Practitioner, Zuko Tshutshane, asked Mr Lamola about a regulation in the LPA that deals with practical vocational training (PVT), which he said is silent in providing an extension once the two years end like it was in the Attorneys Act 53 of 1979. He added that he was of a view that there was a proposal for an amendment to have a six-month grace period once PVT ends for a candidate legal attorney that has not yet finished writing their examinations. He said that it is important to amend that regulation.

The future of the legal profession

During her speech, the Chairperson of the LPC, Janine Myburgh, said that when the LPA was introduced many people were asking how the future of the legal profession was going to be affected and regulated. She said that a few years down the line, many would agree that there has been a significant change of direction in the workings of the LPC. She added that she was encouraged that the profession has been engaging the LPC, raising issues and taking up invitations to play roles in advancing the legal profession.

Chairperson of the Legal Practice Council, Janine Myburgh, discussed the future of the legal profession.

Ms Myburgh said while the change brought by the LPA may still be difficult, time has given the profession the opportunity to adjust to these changes. She added that COVID-19, among many other challenges, has given the profession the opportunity to reflect. She said the legal profession is forced to review and come up with ways of practicing and doing business. She added that legal practitioners continue to learn the important lessons of the need for good relationships and positive engagements within the profession, key stakeholders, including the public they service.

Climate change is the biggest humanitarian crisis

In a panel discussion on environmental and climate issues, legal practitioner, Athi Jara, said that SA’s Climate Change Bill B9 of 2002, recognises that any policy must be integrated with economic development, which will be done in an environmental and socially conscious manner. She pointed out that the Bill is divided into categories. The first category being policy alignment for climate change litigation by government institutions. It then looks at the response by provinces and municipalities, as well as the strategic national adaptations strategies. She noted that the Bill obliges the Minister to set out a greenhouse gas emission trajectory for SA and to provide for national emission reduction targets. She said this is binding on organs of states and private persons as representatives of legal entities.

Legal practitioner, Athi Jara, gave her view on climate change and how it is the biggest humanitarian crisis currently.

In his presentation, panellist and legal practitioner, Ilan Lax said there are talks around climate justice that the developing nations have been the main drivers of climate emissions and it is those developing nations that have produced the carbon base that is changing the climate rapidly. He pointed out that when there are extreme weather impacts, those impacts happen and affect vulnerable nations, particularly in poor areas, and that is why it is called injustice. He added that climate justice is the way to see legal practitioners deliver litigation, adaption and so on to the poorest of the poor.

Panellist and legal practitioner, Ugeshnee Naicker said climate change is the biggest humanitarian crisis and a threat to humanity. She added that there is overwhelming scientific evidence that supports the position that climate change is a result of human activities and the burning of fossil fuels. She pointed out that the climate crisis has already begun, and low-income countries are already facing the extreme effects of it. She said climate justice links human rights, human development, and climate action. She added that achieving climate justice means understanding the contribution to carbon emissions by developed nations versus the developing countries.

Legal Ombudsman, Judge Siraj Desai attending the Law Society of South Africa’s Annual Conference and Annual General Meeting.

Technological disruption in legal practice

In a panel discussion on technological disruption in the legal practice, legal practitioner, Krish Govender, said it is important for South Africa (SA) to be on guard and to be careful because the Constitution, the values and ethos that SA has embodied, are driven with the purpose of growing a caring society and one hopes that artificial intelligence (AI) would be rooted in promoting a just society. He added that the idea of speaking about AI might be very technical and informative, however, he said it is not in SA’s control but coming from elsewhere. He asked if these creations will work for the continent of Africa, will they serve the constitutional values and the ethos that SA want, such as ubuntu and gender equality. ‘We are facing the world that is a pretty bad place. Where we know, South Africa, in itself, has the highest level of inequality and that is a serious issue to be taken in the context of the whole world,’ Mr Govender said.

Mr Govender noted that society is living in dangerous time, that the smart thinkers of the world are among smart criminals, that they can hack into any system, he said that if there is a firewall there is a, smarter, more creative, clever thinker who can break that firewall.

Legal practitioners, Diana Mabasa and Azhar Aziz Ismail, discussing technological disruption in legal practice at the Law Society of South Africa’s Annual Conference and Annual General Meeting.

The second presenter, legal practitioner, Diana Mabasa said that it is not about disruption and automation, but it is about innovation. She asked legal practitioners at the AGM how are they going to innovate going into the future, what is it that they going to do different? She said they must look at how technology is going to change their lives.

The third presenter, legal practitioner, Azhar Aziz Ismail said McKinsey did a survey and that 22% of a legal practitioner’s job and 35% of a paralegal’s job can be automated. He pointed out that legal practitioners do not need to be scared and worried, but only need to look at regulations on how this can impact legal practitioners.

  • See Ms Mabasa’s article ‘ChatGPT: Exploring the risks of unregulated AI in South Africa’ on p 18.
Looking at legal education through a transformed lens

In a panel discussion on ‘Legal education: The winds of change – a new paradigm for legal education’, Mr Mabunda said the LPC is statutorily empowered to deal with issues of legal education in this country, dealing with training of both attorneys and advocates. He added that the LSSA is one of the stakeholders the LPC takes seriously due to its history. He said it is the mandate of the LPC to ensure the objectives of the LPA through the LPC are fulfilled.

Panellist and legal practitioner, Professor Sizwe Snail ka Mtuze; Judge Mokgere Masipa; and legal practitioner, Ettienne Barnard, presented on the topic ‘Preparing legal practitioners for change’.

Legal practitioner, Prof Clement Marumoagae, said that there have not been engagements on what legal education in the context of South Africa is. He added that currently there are two groupings who have a stake in the legal education, namely law teachers and legal practitioners. He pointed out that there are people saying that the duty to teach people the law and to make them practice are law teachers, and the law teachers say they cannot teach people law and preserve them to the profession. He added that the discussion that must be held is who must play a role to make sure that candidate legal practitioners are ready and are able to enter the legal profession.

Prof Marumoagae said that there should be a day where there will be a serious debate as to the respective roles in the legal education system and looking at it from a transformed lens, to see what can be done collectively, to ensure that at the end of the day, competent legal practitioners are produced, who can be fit for purpose. He pointed out that the debate is not happening. He challenged the LPC to engage that question and realise as to what can be done to ensure that justice is done to legal education.

Professor Michele van Eck made a presentation on the Legal Education Ecosystem, which focussed on –

  • influences in the legal education ecosystem;
  • purpose of the legal education ecosystem; and
  • changing landscape of legal education.
  • Read the full presentations at LSSA.org.za.
Preparing legal practitioners for change

In a panel discussion on preparing legal practitioners for change, panellist and legal practitioner, Professor Sizwe Snail ka Mtuze asked where exactly the legal profession is with cyber law. He said that ten years down the line as a practicing legal practitioner if one does not know what cyber law is, one should not be practicing law, because there are so many aspects related to the law that intersects with cyber law. He added that cyber law can deal with telecommunications and can even deal with risk at one’s practice. He pointed out that cyber law or ICT law is the here and now in the practice of law.

Judge Mokgere Masipa said because of the continuous changes in cyber law, it is essential that there is continuous training and education offered to legal practitioners and some form of compulsory education, because of the risks associated with technology.

Legal practitioner, Ettienne Barnard, said that there should be extra provisions made for energy and how to deal with power outages. He said legal practitioners must build trust, as courts have to rely on them. He said practitioners need to go back to basics.

Question and answer session

During the question-and-answer session regarding the president’s report, legal practitioner, Noxolo Maduba-Silevu, commented on the composition of the LSSA’s constituent members and the representation of women within its structures. She said that she applauds NADEL for having 50/50 male and female representatives, whereas other constituent members of the LSSA do not have such representations from the structures. Ms Maduba-Silevu said the LSSA must put systems in place and insist on making sure that the representation is 50/50. In her response, Ms Lenyai said that most female legal practitioners do not raise their hands when invitations are open. She added that the legal profession should create a safe space for them to be able to raise their hands.

Delegates who attended the Law Society of South Africa’s Annual Conference and Annual General Meeting.

Legal practitioner, Kathleen Dlepu asked Ms Lenyai whether the LSSA will be joining other stakeholders in taking the matter of Legal Sector Code to court should they not be promulgated. Ms Lenyai said she will take the question back to the LSSA’s HoC, but she is positive that the LSSA will support the matter.

Legal practitioner, Nkosana Mvundlela noted that not much had been said on the budgeting of the services that the LSSA wanted to render to the members of the profession as noted in the LSSA’s Member Benefits Handbook and its possible costing. He asked if that would extend to the LSSA assisting members, especially up and coming law firms of junior legal practitioners, in relation to their audits and so forth. Ms Lenyai responded that the LSSA will intensify and improve on the roadshows that members can be engaged in the services the LSSA offers. She added that in the handbook there is more information with regards to members’ benefits.

  • To download the LSSA’s Member Benefits Handbook, visit www.LSSA.org.za.

The Law Society of South Africa’s newly elected office bearers, Vice President Mabaeng Denise Lenyai, President Eunice Masipa, and Vice President Joanne Anthony-Gooden.

A word from the incoming President

During the elections of office-bearers, the independent constituency nominated Joanne Anthony-Gooden as the first Vice President of the LSSA. Ms Anthony-Gooden accepted the nomination.

The BLA nominated Ms Lenyai for the second Vice President seat. Ms Lenyai accepted the nomination.

NADEL nominated Eunice Masipa, as the President of the LSSA. Ms Masipa accepted the nomination. In her speech the newly elected President of the LSSA, Ms Masipa thanked Ms Lenyai. She added that the attendance of the AGM was outstanding, and a clear indication of the hard work Ms Lenyai has done together with committee and management at the LSSA. She pointed out that the numbers show that the members are interested in what the LSSA does, and they can see what the LSSA can do for them. Ms Masipa expressed her gratitude to NADEL. She vowed to lead by example and work tirelessly to foster a united organisation that prioritises the advancement of the legal profession and the sustainability of the LSSA.

Incoming President of the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA), Eunice Masipa, thanked Ms Lenyai for the work she did as outgoing President of the LSSA.

Ms Masipa added that she is committed to leveraging her experience and skills to steer the LSSA towards success and growth. She pointed out that since the LPA was enacted, the LSSA has repositioned itself as a member’s interest organisation with the aim of representing the legal profession, ensuring the rule of law through fair and efficient administration of justice. She added that the LSSA’s vision is to empower legal practitioners to deliver exceptional legal services to the community in a professional, ethical, and competent manner. She said that the LSSA will continue to maintain communication with stakeholders to address any challenges that legal practitioners may encounter.

Happenings on day two of the AGM

On the second day of the annual conference and AGM, Manager of Library Services at the LPC law library, Thembinkosi Ngcobo said the law library was given the mandate to facilitate easy access to up-to-date legal information for legal practitioners and candidate legal practitioners. He shared some of the services that the library offers and announced that the library now holds webinars for information sharing sessions, which are in partnership with organisations such as the LPFF.

• To view the presentation by Mr Ngcobo, visit www.LSSA.org.za.

Manager of Library Services at the LPC law library, Thembinkosi Ngcobo said the law library was given the mandate to facilitate easy access to up-to-date legal information for legal practitioners.

A word from the LPFF

LPFF Chief Executive Officer, Motlatsi Molefe said that when he first started out as a young legal practitioner, he understood that to be a legal practitioner, meant that he was not just in a career, but in a career that is supposed to make one wealthy. He added that like many others, he unfortunately discovered that being a legal practitioner does not necessarily translate into wealth, and sometimes it takes one through the path of difficulty. Mr Molefe said that it is in that moment that one needed to decide whether it was worth being a legal practitioner or not. He pointed out that if one stands the test of time, that is when they become a legal practitioner, because it is a calling.

Legal Practitioners’ Fidelity Fund Chief Executive Officer, Motlatsi Molefe, said the Fund exists to support confidence in the legal profession by users of legal services.

Mr Molefe said that the Fund exists to ensure that legal practitioners’ clients get assurance that if legal practitioners do things to reach wealth in a manner that is not acceptable, clients should know that they would not be left without recourse. He added that the Fund exists to support confidence in the legal profession by users of legal services.

Mr Molefe pointed out that the Fund exists to support the notion that this is a profession that simply does not seek to take away only from the public, but also seeks to invest in the public through the investment of whatever loses the public suffers. But also, through initiatives such as offering bursaries, he said this is necessary in a country like SA where there is so much inequality in access to resources.

The services that the LPIIF offer

LPIIF Managing Director, Sipho Mbelle, told attendees that the LPIIF does not exist for profit. He said that they are an insurance that provides PI for legal practitioners practicing with a Fidelity Fund Certificate (FFC). He pointed out that SA has two layers of PI cover, and the LPIIF runs one that is called the base layer, which covers a firm up to R 3,125 million. He said that the base layer is compulsory.

Mr Mbelle pointed out that when the LPFF pays for the premium, it pays for every legal practitioner that has an FFC. He said that the LPIIF exists so that if a legal practitioner makes a mistake, clients will be able to be compensated, adding that it continues to generate confidence in the legal profession. He detailed the services that the LPIIF offers. He said that the LPFF has been paying for the premium of the LPIIF, however, he pointed out that, that will change as legal practitioners will pay in future. Mr Mbelle added that they are still engaging with legal stakeholders regarding the matter and to discuss ways the change will not threaten the sustainability of law firms.

Services that the LPIIF offer are –

  • PI insurance;
  • executor bonds;
  • prescription alerts;
  • risk management; and
  • practice support.

After formal proceedings members had a swift networking session, to engage with the young legal practitioners.

Photos from the AGM. Visit www.derebus.org.za for more images from the Law Society of South Africa’s Annual Conference and Annual General Meeting.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2023 (May) DR 4.

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