Fraud: Could joint initiative be the answer?

September 1st, 2013
x
Bookmark

By Mapula Sedutla – acting editor

The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) and De Rebus support the Road Accident Fund’s (RAF’s) initiative to eradicate fraud and unethical behaviour by attorneys and other role players. However, it should be noted that the fraud is not one sided. The RAF’s advert on p 21 is a clear message that the fund is on a drive to root out corruption; the same message should be applicable to the RAF’s own staff as the entire chain of corruption must be eradicated.

This is an opportunity for the LSSA and the RAF to open communication channels so that unethical actions by attorneys detected by the RAF are brought to the attention of the provincial law societies. In as much as the public makes complaints against attorneys to the fund, if the matters are not brought to the attention of the provincial law societies, there will be a delay in dealing with the unethical attorneys, which will further exacerbate the situation turning it into a vicious cycle as the unethical attorneys continue with their practice. The LSSA does not condone unethical behaviour by attorneys and agrees that fraudsters should be prosecuted.

Legal Practice Bill – latest

During the months of July and August the Bill has been scrutinised by the Justice Portfolio Committee so that all contentious issues could be interrogated. The chairperson of the committee, Luwellyn Landers, has said that no final decisions had been taken on any issue in the Bill and the committee would be considering various options that have been made.

One of the clauses that has been flagged by the committee for further deliberations is clause 34, which deals with the fee structure. The committee has, meanwhile, asked the Justice Department to prepare proposals or options for consideration, such as the creation of a statutory body comprising lawyers and non-lawyers as an alternative to using the Rules Board for purposes of determining fees. The committee has also asked the department to include experience as one of the determining factors to be taken into account when fees are structured.

The latest working document of the Bill, as of 1 August, can be found on www.lssa.org.za. This document contains an edition to clause 35 with sub-clause (3) under the ‘Alternative option’ headline and also contains a sub-clause (4) under the ‘Further option’ headline.

The committee has resolved the issue of advocates taking briefs direct from the public. It has agreed to recommend that advocates who take this direction will be required to have Fidelity Fund certificates and comply with other regulations, which the Justice Minister will make in consultation with either the envisaged National Legal Practice Council or the Legal Practitioners’ Fidelity Fund Board. The committee has pointed out, however, that this would not entail advocates providing legal services that have traditionally been exclusively provided by attorneys.

Mr Landers has indicated that his committee was confident that the Bill will be before the National Council of Provinces in September.

Tribute to Justice Langa

On p 6 we pay tribute to the late former Chief Justice Pius Langa. Chief Justice Mogoeng  Mogoeng, on behalf of the judiciary; the co-chairpersons of the Law Society of South Africa, Kathleen Matolo-Dlepu and David Bekker; the National Association of Democratic Lawyers; the Black Lawyers Association; and the General Council of the Bar all said that one of the attributes Justice Langa will be remembered for was his humility. I too can attest to that as on meeting him for the first time at an event I attended, as he was about to introduce himself, I proceeded to tell him that there was no need for him to introduce himself as I knew who he was. He then said to me: ‘Please allow me the pleasure of introducing myself, just this once’. This shows that he was more than a title, the fact that he was a former Chief Justice did not take away from the humble person he was.

Nip and tuck

While De Rebus will continue to be a source of information for the profession, the Law Society of South Africa, as a whole, has been met with budgetary constraints. This means that the journal will have a limit on the number of pages printed each month. Shorter articles that are practical in nature will be given priority. Unfortunately the two featured ‘5 minutes with …’ columns on p 17 and p 18 will be the last in the series.

Another item that will be removed from the journal is the ‘People and practices’ section. As of January 2014 the column will be combined with the admissions into a ‘careers’ supplement. Law firms wishing to send through promotions and appointment notices will be charged a minor fee per placement in the supplement. This will also assist De Rebus to cover its cost of printing the supplement.

Mapula Sedutla, mapula@derebus.org.za

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2013 (Sept) DR 3.

X