Legal Practice Bill passed and awaiting Presidential assent

April 1st, 2014
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By Barbara Whittle

The Legal Practice Bill was passed by the National Assembly on 12 March 2014 and was sent to the office of the State Legal Adviser for final constitutional scrutiny. This was expected to be completed during April 2014 and the President was expected to assent to the Bill before the national elections on 7 May. This would then signal the start of the transitional process, which will be steered by the National Forum on the Legal Profession (NFLP).

After provincial legislature briefings held in February 2014, on 5 March the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) voted on the Bill, which had minor technical amendments, and passed it with five provinces voting in favour, one abstaining and the Western Cape legislature objecting. A s 76 Bill, as the Legal Practice Bill was tagged, requires a minimum vote by five provinces. The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) made written and oral submissions at the provincial hearings (see 2014 (Mar) DR 3). The Democratic Alliance issued a statement on 12 March indicating that, in its view, the passage of the Bill through the NCOP had been procedurally incorrect as one of the five provices, Gauteng, did not have a valid mandate.

Also on 12 March 2014, the LSSA’s management committee met with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to offer its support to the Department in setting up a steering committee to start working on the roadmap for the transitional process. The Department is responsible for the costs, infrastructure and staffing of the NFLP. However, the understanding is that the profession itself will be expected to take responsibility for the work and negotiations of the NFLP, which will be in existence for a period of three years.

The NFLP

In terms of the Bill, the NFLP will have 21 members, 16 of whom are legal practitioners:

  • Eight attorneys designated by the LSSA:

­- Two representing the Black Lawyers Association.

– Two representing the National Association of Democratic Lawyers.

– Four representing the four statutory provincial law societies.

  • Eight advocates:

– Five designated by the General Council of the Bar.

– One designated by the National Bar Council of South Africa.

– One advocate designated by the National Forum of Advocates.

– One advocate designated by Advocates for Transformation.

  • One teacher of law designated by the South African Law Deans Association.
  • Two persons designated by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development.
  • One person designated by Legal Aid South Africa.
  • One person designated by the Board of Control of the Attorneys Fidelity Fund.

Within two years, the NFLP must make recommendations to the Minister on the following:

  • An election procedure for purposes of constituting the National Legal Practice Council.
  • The establishment of the provincial councils and their areas of jurisdiction.
  • The composition, powers and functions of the provincial councils.
  • The manner in which the provincial councils must be elected.
  • All the practical vocational training requirements that candidate attorneys or pupils must comply with before they can be admitted by the court as legal practitioners.
  • The right of appearance of a candidate legal practitioner in court or any other institution.
  • A mechanism to wind up the affairs of the NFLP.
  • Prepare and publish a code of conduct.

Compiled by Barbara Whittle, communication manager, Law Society of South Africa, barbara@lssa.org.za

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2014 (April) DR 16.

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