Letters to the editor

October 28th, 2015
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Letters are not published under noms de plume. However, letters from practising attorneys who make their identities and addresses known to the editor may be considered for publication anonymously.


Filing of court documents in the magistrate’s courts

The magistrate’s court rules of court are to be applied ‘so as to facilitate the expeditious handling of disputes and the minimisation of costs involved’, or so r 1(2) states. Rule 3(12) provides that ‘the offices of the registrar or clerk of the court shall be open from 08:00 to 13:00 and from 14:00 to 15:00’ to issue process or to file any documents. A notice of intention to defend can be filed until 16:00.

Many magistrate’s courts have resorted to a type of basket-filing system, where the attorney drops the original and his copy of the document in a basket in an office (when that office door is not locked). The attorney must then return the next day and hope that his court-stamped copy will be placed in a pigeon hole from where he can hopefully find it among all the other documents from other attorneys in the same region. This filing system is reprehensible because the attorney does not have any proof that he filed a document or on which day this document was filed.

The number of documents that we have lost due to this system being used in different courts are evident of the unsuitability of this system. It frustrates the timeous delivery of documents and increases travelling expenses to the courts.

In many cases, the court stamp is also not affixed to the document on the day that the attorney actually filed the document in court. One also now has to make at least two trips to the court to file a document and ensure proper delivery in terms of the court rules. Not all firms have the luxury of messengers who can attend the courts on a daily basis.

The Rules Board should consider to specifically clarify the duties of the registrars and clerks relating to the filing of documents until such time as the Department of Justice implements an electronic filing system. An attorney who goes to court to file a document, should at least return to his office with a court stamped copy of that document. My experience these days is that every court has its own internal rules on the filing of documents, as well as the times and days that they are open to issue process and file documents. This results in uncertainty, delays in the process and quite a substantial increase in travel time and travel and parking costs.

Elize Radley, attorney, Johannesburg

 

Concern about Legal Practice Act

In response to the request made by the editor in the editorial titled ‘Legal Practice Act: What’s happening now?’ (2015 (Sept) DR 3) as to clarification on any matter in the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014, I have the following concern.

I am a final semester law student studying through Unisa. In order to be admitted as an attorney, I must complete articles. I know of the various ways articles can be completed namely the standard two years, or a reduced or increased amount of time under various circumstances, as listed in the Attorneys Act 53 of 1979.

However, my concern lies in that a graduate is forced to complete articles in order to be admitted, but no practitioner is forced to take on a candidate attorney. I believe this creates a gap where graduates search for articles and are stuck and cannot proceed if no one wishes to hire them. I speak from experience. I have been applying for articles at, literally, hundreds of law firms. From large multinational firms to sole practitioners. While I have items counting against me, that is, I am a mature student, I also have items that count in my favour, such as a good academic record and more than 20 years’ office experience.

No other response is given to my applications other than that there is no position currently available. So, I am at a crossroads. How do I proceed to become an admitted attorney and start my career, if no one wants to hire me? I do realise that being an admitted attorney is not the only option for an LLB graduate. But, this is what I want and it is the direction I wish to go, since I would like to be a conveyancer and notary public.

This is a gap that needs addressing. Can the Legal Practice Act provide some relief in this regard?

Shannon Nelmes, law student, Kempton Park

 

Reply from LEAD

We understand the frustration of the writer.

‘Workplace training’ in preparation for admission, is a well-established and necessary requirement. It will, however, be practically and economically impossible to force a law firm to appoint a candidate attorney. Many factors are taken into consideration when a firm creates and fills a position for a candidate attorney.

This certainly does not mean that one should be insensitive about the desire of graduates for an opportunity to qualify as a legal practitioner.

The Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 states that increased opportunity for access to the profession is an aspiration. This will definitely be a critical issue on the agenda of the legal education committee of the National Forum, when it deliberates on new rules for admission to practice.

 

Nic Swart, Chief Executive Officer Law Society of South Africa and Director: Legal Education and Development

 

The Law Society of South African’s Legal Education and Development division administers a databank of prospective candidate attorneys seeking articles. To find out more, contact Dianne Angelopulo at (012) 441 4622 or e-mail Dianne@LSSALEAD.org.za.

De Rebus also offers a free service to prospective candidate attorneys by placing advertisements on a first-come, first served basis for those seeking or ceding articles. Contact yp@derebus.org.za for more information.

Editor.

 

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2015 (Nov) DR 4.