Public vs attorneys and law societies

June 1st, 2014

Mapula Thebe – Editor

In the past few months the legal profession and the way it functions has been in the spotlight and under scrutiny with extensive coverage on mainstream media and social media platforms. A number of recent cases show that members of the public are not afraid to take attorneys to task and ensure that provincial law societies fulfil their mandate of regulating the profession.

In Bitter N.O. v Ronald Bobroff & Partners Inc and Another (GJ) (unreported case no 11069/13, 29-4-2014) the applicant (Anthony) sought relief against Ronald Bobroff & Partners (RBP) based on the Ronald Bobroff & Partners Inc v De La Guerre; South African Association of Personal Injury Lawyers v Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development (CC) (unreported case no CCT 122/13, CCT 123/13 20-2-2014) (Moseneke ACJ, Skweyiya ADCJ, Cameron J, Dambuza AJ, Froneman J, Jafta J, Madlanga J, Van der Westhuizen J and Zondo J) judgment (see 2014 (May) DR 52). Anthony requested that RBP, within 30 days of the order of the court, delivers an itemised and detailed bill of costs. Anthony also requested that RBP pay his attorney in trust an amount of R 2 101 871,80, retained by RBP, as attorney and own client costs, during a case between himself and the Road Accident Fund as well as the accumulative interest. The court granted the relief sought.

The Bitter case clearly indicates that the public will not shy away from questioning the amount attorneys charge and can request that a clear and itemised bill of cost be delivered to them.

In another case, Graham and Others v Law Society of the Northern Provinces and Others (GP) (unreported case no 61790/2012, 15-4-2014) (Mothle J), the applicants (Jennifer and Matthew Graham) lodged a complaint of overcharging with the Law Society of the Northern Province (LSNP) against RBP. The Grahams were also dissatisfied with the manner in which they allege the LSNP dealt with their complaint against RBP and brought an application seeking that the High Court should take over the LSNP’s disciplinary inquiry or allow it to continue under the court’s supervision.

Although the request to have the disciplinary inquiry under the court’s supervision was not granted, the Grahams were able to ensure that the disciplinary inquiry started as the court ordered that it take place after 60 days of the judgment.

Internal matters

The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA), the De Rebus team and the attorneys’ profession would like to thank Sithembele Mgxaji for serving as a member of the De Rebus Editorial Committee. Mr Mgxaji served on the committee from February 2006 until May 2014; he also served as the committee’s chairperson during the 2011/2012 period. His insights and guidance, spanning over eight years, has helped produce a journal that is topical and of interest to the attorneys’ profession. Mr Mgxaji who was the Black Lawyers Association (BLA) representative on the committee will be replaced by Lutendo Sigogo who is also from the BLA.

By the time you receive this copy; I will be on four months maternity leave and will return in September in time to start working on the November issue. The De Rebus team will be under the stewardship of Barbara Whittle, the LSSA’s Communications Manager, who will be acting as editor in my absence. The team and the Editorial Committee will continue to produce a journal that the profession depends on.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2014 (June) DR 3.