A historic moment – Action Group on Briefing Patterns delivers on procurement protocols

August 1st, 2017

Deputy Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo, signing the procurement protocol, in Johannesburg.

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

Deputy Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo, congratulated the Action Group on Briefing Patterns in the Legal Profession (the Action Group) for the work they have done with the procurement protocol. Justice Zondo was the keynote speaker on the official signing of the procurement protocols for the legal profession in June in Johannesburg. He said that the event of signing of the procurement protocols was a historic event for the legal profession.

Deputy Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo, speaking at the signing of the procurement protocol in June. Justice Zondo described the event as a historic moment for the legal profession.

On 31 March 2016, the Action Group was established as a result of the Summit on Briefing Patterns held by the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA). The Action Group, which is a multi-stakeholder group, includes representatives of –

  • the LSSA;
  • the General Council of the Bar;
  • Advocates for Transformation; and
  • the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

The stakeholders drafted the procurement protocols that have been adopted by the attorneys’ and advocates’ professions, to transform the legal profession – particularly with regard to briefing patterns – which has become a topical and contentious issue in South Africa (SA).

Justice Zondo said for the longest time there were talks of transformation, but not much action had been taken. He added that the need for a protocol arose because one of the realities that SA has been faced with, was that black lawyers and, particularly, women lawyers remain largely excluded from certain types of legal work, which white male lawyers are given in abundance. He pointed out that at times those who give work to white lawyers do not give work to black lawyers or women lawyers. Instead the work given to them has very little financial reward, because society lacked confidence in women’s profession for no reason other than that they are women.

Justice Zondo noted that the exclusion black lawyers and women lawyers endured are there because of the legacy of Apartheid, colonialism and patriarchy. He pointed out that black lawyers and women lawyers are largely excluded in work in commercial law, mining law, trade mark law, competition law and many other fields. Justice Zondo said that the signing of the protocol represented an unequivocal rejection, unequal treatment of black lawyers and women lawyers and men and women in the legal profession in the provision of legal work.

Justice Zondo added that the signing of the protocol acted as a very important building block in creating a society that is not based on exclusion, but a society that includes all the people of SA, black, white, men and women. He said it represented the desire and commitment to the society at large. He advised that the Action Group does not stop working, but rather monitor and implement various decisions to make sure the project does not fail.

Justice Zondo said that there should be a permanent structure of representatives from government, the private sector and the legal profession that will make sure that it monitors the pace of transformation and deals with challenges that will arise from time to time. He added that the structure had people from government, the private sector and the legal profession who are decentralised in all provinces to monitor that everybody was doing what they were supposed to do and report back to the larger structure so that the pace of transformation will not slow down. ‘Let nobody be excluded from any legal plan, let all black, white, men and women share all the legal work,’ Justice Zondo said.

Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery, signing the procurement protocol in Johannesburg.

The Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery said that it is not an issue of race and gender, but an issue of values. However, he added that in terms of the current conjunction with the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014, race and gender is key. ‘We need a legal profession at all levels, from candidate attorneys, professional assistances, through to attorneys, senior partners and directors etcetera … that reflects the race and gender demographics of South Africa,’ Mr Jeffery said.

Mr Jeffery pointed out that all sections of society should protect race, gender and the profile of the country. He said currently many law graduates are African women and that it was up to the provincial law societies to examine the figures on who is getting articles.

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

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2017 (Aug) DR 6.