LSSA calls for representation for attorneys and advocates on new Legal Aid South Africa Board

October 1st, 2014

By Barbara Whittle

Earlier this year, the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) made comments on the Legal Aid Bill and the Attorneys Amendment Bill. Both Bills were debated by the Portfolio Committee for Justice in Parliament late in August and in September.

As regards the Legal Aid Bill, the LSSA pointed out that clause 4(1) allowed the Board to do all that was necessary to achieve the objects of Legal Aid South Africa, including among other actions, employing paralegals. The LSSA noted that, although it had no objection to paralegals being used as researchers, interviewers and the like (provided that they are under proper supervision and oversight by a legal practitioner), they should not be allowed to sign pleadings and appear in court.

The LSSA added that currently paralegals did not fall under the disciplinary jurisdiction of any regulatory statutory bodies and no provision had been made in the Legal Practice Bill (LPB) for the regulation of paralegals. Therefore, the LSSA suggested the clause be amended as follows: ‘Legal Aid South Africa may employ paralegals to provide legal services and advice, provided that the paralegal is subject to the supervision of a legal practitioner.’

As regards the composition of the Board, the LSSA noted its concern that no provision had been made for the representation of the legal profession on the Board. The LSSA stated: ‘The core function of Legal Aid South Africa is to deliver legal services. The statutory law societies and General Council of the Bar are the main regulators of practising attorneys and advocates and as such should be represented on the Board.’

In addition, the LSSA stressed that since Legal Aid South Africa employs in excess of 2 000 legal practitioners and as such is the largest employer of candidate attorneys, the law societies had a vested right in the functioning of the Board.

In terms of the LPB, the Legal Practice Council (LPC) would in future regulate attorneys, candidate attorneys, advocates and pupils. The LPB provides for separate representation by Legal Aid South Africa on the LPC, due to the nature of the legal services rendered and due to the contribution by Legal Aid South Africa to access to justice. The LSSA pointed out that it is an objective of the LPC to ensure access to justice and as such, the Legal Aid Bill should provide for reciprocity for attorneys and advocates as far as representation on the Board of Legal Aid SA is concerned.

As regards clause 22(3) of the Legal Aid Bill, the LSSA stated that it appears that a court may not mero motu refer a person to Legal Aid South Africa for legal representation at state expense, but can only do so after the person has already applied to Legal Aid South Africa, which request has been refused and he or she has exhausted all internal remedies. The LSSA noted: ‘This section might have unintended consequences, such as depriving people of their rights in terms of s 35 of the Constitution and lead to unnecessary delays in the conduct of trials.’

Attorneys Amendment Bill urgent

The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) made only very brief submissions of a technical nature on the Attorneys Amendment Bill, stressing that the Bill was urgent and that the amendments should in no way delay its passage, which was in the interest of the profession and of the public. The Bill is aimed, among other aspects, at addressing disparities in relation to attorneys and candidate attorneys in the territories comprising the former Republics of Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei. It repeals the laws of the former territories in so far as they are still applicable to attorneys and candidate attorneys in these territories.

  • The full comments by the LSSA can be accessed on the LSSA website at under ‘Legal practitioners – LSSA comments’.

Compiled by Barbara Whittle, communication manager, Law Society of South Africa,

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2014 (Oct) DR 22.

De Rebus