ProBono.Org and LSNP open joint pro bono office

June 1st, 2015

By Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele

ProBono.Org and the Law Society of the Northern Provinces (LSNP) have opened a joint pro bono office in Pretoria.

The new office, which is situated at the Kutlwanong Democracy Centre found at 357 Visagie Street, was opened on 6 May.

Judge of the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, Jody Kollapen gave the keynote address at the opening and other speakers included the President of the LSNP, Strike Madiba; national director of ProBono.Org, Erica Emdon and chairperson of ProBono.Org, advocate Andy Bester.

Ms Emdon said this initiative was motivated by the idea of combining the two organisations’ systems of undertaking pro bono work in order to advance the promotion of access to justice in all the provinces under the jurisdiction of the LSNP.

‘The collaboration brings distinct value; ProBono.Org will continue to use its approach of encouraging attorneys to undertake pro bono work in a number of interesting ways, and the LSNP will use its statutory ability to implement the pro bono rule to bring attorneys into the fold,’ Ms Emdon said.

Rule 79A of the Rules of the LSNP requires members who have practised for less than 40 years and who are less than 60 years of age to perform pro bono services of not less than 24 hours per calendar year. Rule 79A provides that pro bono referrals should be done on the basis that such work would fall within the professional competence of the members concerned.

The office will therefore assist attorneys by providing a range of opportunities to become involved that would make it easier for attorneys to comply with the requirement.

All work attended to through a referral or involvement with the Tshwane Office will be acknowledged as part of the pro bono commitment required from attorneys. The two organisations are hoping to create flexible methods for attorneys to easily engage in pro bono activities and attend to legal gaps that currently exist in society due to a lack of access to justice through the combination of resources and skills.

Mr Madiba said geographically, the office will focus on the Tshwane region and will establish a network to provide pro bono assistance to Limpopo, North West and eventually Mpumalanga. The offices will allow for a dedicated space where pro bono attorneys can consult with clients in a confidential and secure location.

A means-test will be applied in all matters attended to by the office and the merits of each matter will be considered before making a referral to pro bono attorneys. As a result, the office will be able to attend to more clients and its ability to refer matters to law firms will be increased.

The office will also accommodate legal clinics and projects that attorneys may participate in to provide their services. The office will focus on issues of public interest including family law, domestic violence, maintenance, estates, housing, credit and consumer law.

Judge Kollapen said after the first elections in 1994 most people felt good about voting but added that the sad reality was that nothing much had changed for them. He added that according to statistics from the Presidency’s National Development Plan, South Africa remained the most unequal society in the world.

He posed the question whether South Africa belonged to all who lived in it. Judge Kollapen said South African citizens lived in a rules based society, adding that to obey the rules, citizens needed to know the law and needed to have access to the law. ‘If one does not have this knowledge, then the law is useless,’ he said.

Judge Kollapen said: ‘The sad reality is that you get the best education, legal services and healthcare depending on what you get paid. The rights of power ultimately trump human rights. This is why these kind of initiatives are needed.’ He concluded his speech by congratulating the LSNP and ProBono.Org on ‘such a great’ initiative.

Judge Kollapen said the High Court in Pretoria was also in the process of establishing a similar initiative called the Help Desk. He said the Help Desk would work closely with this pro bono office and would refer clients to it.

Mr Madiba congratulated Humphrey Shivamba who was the mastermind behind the pro bono office. He said Mr Shivamba had converted people and had made them buy into pro bono and made them passionate about access to justice.

Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele NDip Journ (DUT) BTech Journ (TUT) is the news editor at De Rebus.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2015 (June) DR 7.