Uniform Guidelines on conferral of Senior Attorney

April 1st, 2024

On 13 March 2024, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, published the Uniform Guidelines on conferral of Senior Attorney and Senior Counsel honours on eligible legal practitioners. According to the statement by Minister Lamola, in the past, the granting of silk was viewed as an exercise of the ‘honours prerogative’ based on English law, which was adopted into South African law through the Union Constitution of 1910. The Senior Counsel system has evolved from the British tradition of Queen’s Counsel to the present-day Senior Counsel tradition, which has become an integral part of South Africa’s legal heritage.

The Constitutional Court, in the matter of Mansingh v General Council of the Bar and Others 2014 (2) SA 26 (CC), held that the conferment of Senior Counsel honours is part of the President’s responsibility to confer honours under s 84(2)(k) of the Constitution.

The aim of the guidelines is to address various issues, it is crucial to streamline and transform the Senior Counsel system. This includes rectifying racial and gender biases that have resulted in the exclusion and marginalisation of previously disadvantaged practitioners from equal participation in the system.

Minister Lamola noted, ‘the evolution of the Legal Practice within the nation involves a constant reassessment of past injustices. The colonial system of designating senior advocates as Senior Counsel, which was at times arbitrary and discriminatory, lacked a fair and just criteria. As a result, the status of Senior Counsel was often sought and granted without proper regard for transforming the legal profession’.

The Uniform Guidelines states that the Legal Practice Council, will facilitate the processing of nominations for Senior Attorney and Senior Counsel honours, in order to ensure uniformity and transparency in the application of the criteria and the process for the conferment of such honours to eligible legal practitioners.

Uniform Guideline para 4 spells out criteria for eligibility for conferment of Senior Attorney or Senior Counsel honours, see the full guidelines here: www.derebus.org.za.

Would you like to write for De Rebus?

De Rebus welcomes article contributions from legal practitioners.

Practitioners and others who wish to submit feature articles, practice notes, case notes, opinion pieces and letters can e-mail their contributions to derebus@derebus.org.za.

The decision on whether to publish a particular submission is that of the De Rebus Editorial Committee, whose decision is final. In general, contributions should be useful or of interest to practising attorneys and must be original and not published elsewhere. For more information, see the ‘Guidelines for articles in De Rebus’ on our website (www.derebus.org.za).

  • Please note that the word limit is 2 000 words.
  • Upcoming deadlines for article submissions:  22 April; 20 May, and 18 June 2024.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2024 (April) DR 3.