Minister Lamola visits candidate legal practitioners at LEAD

September 5th, 2019

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, addressing candidate legal practitioners at the Law Society of South Africa’s Legal Education and Development division in Pretoria.

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, visited the Law Society of South Africa’s Legal Education and Development (LEAD) division on 19 August in Pretoria. Mr Lamola’s visit was to encourage candidate legal practitioners to become ‘legal practitioners with a purpose’ when they start practising. He said that it was an exciting time to be a candidate legal practitioner in South Africa (SA), because events, such as the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector including Organs of State (State Capture Inquiry), the ongoing Omotoso trial and the Oscar Pistorius trial (Director of Public Prosecutions, Gauteng v Pistorius [2016] 1 All SA 346 (SCA)) that captivated the world are being broadcasted and televised. Mr Lamola pointed out that candidate legal practitioners could learn valuable lessons by watching the proceedings on television.

Mr Lamola added that practising law is becoming more public. He told candidate legal practitioners that it is important that they become legal practitioners for the purpose of administration of justice, so that when they do their work, they receive recognition for the impact and the application of the theory of law. He pointed out that even though the profession may be exciting, it is also experiencing a difficult time in the form of challenges, such as the fourth industrial revolution, artificial intelligence, high unemployment rates and a lack of economic growth taking place in the country. He said in the future, the Internet is going to affect how all professions are going to be run.

Mr Lamola said the State Capture Inquiry would not have happened without the ‘sophisticated hands’ of professionals, such as, legal practitioners, accountants and engineers. He pointed out that SA is having serious financial constraints, due to the people who enabled the looting of state funds. ‘As you are here, you must be able to tell yourself that you want to be a new cadre of society, that is going to be ethical, upright and that is going to ensure that the moral fibre of society is restored,’ Mr Lamola added.

Mr Lamola noted that when one steals from the public, it does not mean they are only stealing from the public but stealing from themselves as well. ‘If we can no longer fund medication and other various amenities, that the public sector is supposed to fund, you are also going to be affected. Today’s candidate legal practitioners are a new generation who must help us change and renew our country for the benefit of everyone,’ Mr Lamola said.

Mr Lamola shared an experience of when he was a candidate legal practitioner. He said while sitting in class with his fellow candidate legal practitioners, they used to think that the future was going to be difficult. He said that he related to some of the issues that candidate legal practitioners are facing today, such as, not finding articles or employment after completing their studies. However, he said that there is another option of starting your own practice, even if it is operated in a one room building. He told candidate legal practitioners that when he started practising, he started very small, but by the time he left practice, his firm had a staff compliment of 13 people.

Mr Lamola said: ‘Among you, there are people who must help us turn the economy around, through small businesses, because that is the only way our economy can recover. I know that this school has the important role of teaching you ethics. Judges, chief justices, even a minister of justice like myself or president of the country will come out of this class.’

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, during his visit to the Law Society of South Africa’s Legal Education and Development division on 19 July.

Mr Lamola gave the candidate legal practitioners an opportunity to engage with him and ask a few questions. Candidate legal practitioner, Manyike Masana Nyiko, asked Mr Lamola a question regarding the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (the LPA). She said the LPA stipulates that in order for one to write a Board Examination, one needs to have completed six months articles. She asked what would happen should one not get articles but would want to write the Board Examination.

Another candidate legal practitioner, Lighton Nkonwana, based his comment on transformation in the legal profession. He told Mr Lamola that it was difficult for the majority of black candidate legal practitioners to get articles, unlike their white counterparts. He said that it was easier for white legal practitioners to get articles as they already knew where to go, due to the fact that many of their relatives or families already own law firms. He asked Mr Lamola if he would be surprised in the next three years if the very same black candidate legal practitioners, he saw at LEAD had still not been able to get articles?

Mr Lamola said that after listening to all the questions and comments from the candidate legal practitioners that he understood and could relate to the challenges candidate legal practitioners were currently facing. Mr Lamola, however, pointed out that the LPA’s main purpose is to transform the legal profession and to reflect the demographics of the country. He said that if there was any section in the LPA that will affect the main objective of transforming the legal profession negatively, he would, together with the Legal Practice Council, investigate that section.

Mr Lamola said with regards to the issue of articles, the challenge was not only in the legal profession but in all professions. He pointed out that it is an economical challenge. However, he added that the difference could be that white candidate legal practitioners do not struggle to find articles. ‘I was looking at university statistics and I have seen that the university system has changed in the number of graduates, the majority of graduates are black students. This begins to reflect the demographics of the country. But we still have to travel some route to make sure that even employment reflects the demographics of the country,’ Mr Lamola said.

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