Free State High Court launches knowledge-sharing initiative

May 1st, 2014

By Inez Bezuidenhout and Joleen Maartens

Acting Judge President Nathan Erasmus initiated a series of knowledge-sharing sessions in the Free State High Court, the first of which was held in February. Stakeholders representing various role players in, inter alia, the criminal justice process attended the initial session and participated in a collaborative effort to deal practically with challenges of an effective justice system. These interactive sessions provide an opportunity for practitioners to voice concerns and possible solutions to the challenges faced in providing quality legal services to clients, while at the same time ensuring the effective and speedy finalisation of cases.

Legal practitioners need to stay abreast of new developments and through trial and error, to share best practices from their own experiences and expertise. The practice of law in itself is a life-long commitment to the study of law. Reciprocal learning develops skills and reinforces values in a way that will never be achieved through mere class-room teaching. Instead of isolating the learning experience to specific stages of legal education and training, and blaming short-comings of recently admitted professionals to a faulty higher education system, law schools and faculties need the ‘buy-in’ from the judiciary and practitioners to provide opportunities, such as this initiative, to expose practical skills to law students as well as those not exposed to a certain field of law on a regular basis, to additional learning experiences. Deductive and inductive reasoning and critical analytical skills are mirrored in the lessons learnt from practice.

Applying legal theory to a set of facts with a definite outcome in mind cannot be equated to real life situations where a specific outcome cannot be anticipated from the onset of a case. Legal assistance seekers seldom have an isolated problem that neatly falls within the realm of a particular module of the law curriculum. What emerges from a single real life ‘set of facts’ often necessitates that a practitioner analyses the law holistically and relies on external role players, to best serve the needs of his or her client, bearing in mind the interest of justice. Legal education and training is the responsibility of every individual in the legal process as part of a civic duty to work towards an effective justice system.

A series of knowledge-sharing sessions will be presented in the Free State High Court addressing topics identified by the participants. The idea of this initiative is to enrich each other on an informal basis, on relevant topics. Anyone is free to submit and/or present these topics. Public funds are not used for this initiative, and it relies on sponsors for each of the sessions held at the Free State High Court. The judiciary of the Free State High Court collectively decided to support this initiative to engage with the profession. Those wishing to enter it, and those who recently entered it by inviting speakers with expertise in fields relating to the law have been asked to step forward and share their experiences in these various, often complex, subjects.

Inez Bezuidenhout Director: University of the Free State Law Clinic, and Joleen MaartensSenior Law Researcher: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2014 (May) DR 19.