What does the Law Society of South Africa do?

November 1st, 2020

With the enactment of the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 and the establishment of the Legal Practice Council (LPC), legal practitioners have been questioning if there is a need for the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA), or if the LSSA still exists.

The LSSA has represented the legal profession since 1998 and when LPC was established at the end of October 2018, this necessitated that the LSSA transform itself. The LSSA transformed and changed its constitution to reflect both its new role as the representative body with key objectives of leading a transformed profession within a changing environment and legal practice. The legal profession currently consists of approximately 28 580 legal practitioners registered as attorneys and 6 700 candidate legal practitioners (numbers as of 31 July 2020). The LSSA brings together the Black Lawyers Association, the National Association of Democratic Lawyers and the Provincial Attorneys’ Associations, in representing the attorneys’ profession in South Africa. To date only the Gauteng Attorneys’ Association has been formally established and is a member of the LSSA. Other provinces, except for Limpopo, have finalised their constitutions via their task teams, but due to the lockdown have not arranged general meetings to formally adopt the constitutions. Limpopo has advised that they will be agreeing to their constitution soon.

Below is a synopsis of the functions performed by the LSSA, recently, for the enhancement of the legal profession.

The LSSA made numerous submissions on behalf of the profession on issues that affect the profession, the administration of justice and the rule of law. Some of these are:

  • Various submissions to the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Minister of Transport; the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development; and the Chief Justice regarding COVID-19 issues, including the functioning of the courts and the Deeds Office.
  • Various submissions to the Rules Board for Courts of Law on the Magistrates’ Courts Rules, including tariff for travelling time for Sheriffs and proposed rule changes in respect of summonses.
  • Submissions on the proposed amendment of the tax legislation to remove the requirement of intent for the purposes of prosecution of tax related matters. The LSSA opposed the proposed amendments on the basis that it will open the door for the criminal prosecution of negligent tax-related conduct, such as failure to update contact details.
  • Various submissions to the LPC, including on the draft criteria and procedures for the conferment of senior counsel and senior attorney status (the LSSA’s position is that there should be uniformity) and the amendments of the Rules to make it misconduct for principals to advertise specific requirements, such as driver’s licences and access to vehicles for prospective candidate legal practitioners (the LSSA’s position is that the LPC should not over-regulate the profession and should rather look at alternative ways to encourage transformation within the profession).

The LSSA undertakes litigation in the interest of the profession and the public. Some of the matters include:

The LSSA cooperates with key stakeholders on advocacy issues and regularly meets with various stakeholders. The LSSA Conveyancing Task Team is still active and the mentorship programme has been rolled out. The LSSA does not envisage contact mentoring, but rather one-on-one or virtual group mentorship. The LSSA is in the process of finalising the matching of mentees to mentors, but there is still a need for mentors to be matched to promising mentees. Conveyancers are urged to make themselves available.

National Wills Week is now an established highlight among the profession’s social outreach and access to justice initiatives. This is thanks to the thousands of attorneys who participate by giving generously of their time and skills. Wills Week is when members of the public can have a basic will drafted by an attorney free of charge.

The aim of the Wills Week campaign is twofold, namely –

  • to position attorneys as the premier providers of wills and estates services to the public (pro bono), and to improve the image of the profession generally; and
  • to encourage members of the public who would not normally make use of the services of an attorney, or who may hesitate to approach an attorney, to consult an attorney to have a basic will drafted.

The above is a clear indication that the LSSA is still a relevant organisation that enhances the legal profession. The LSSA performs these various functions with the aid of its different department, which will be discussed in the next editorial.

For more information on the above visit www.lssa.org.za

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2020 (Nov) DR 3.