What every attorney should know about the Legal Practice Act

March 1st, 2015

By Mapula Thebe – editor

After a long period of waiting the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (LPA) was published in Government Gazette 38022 on 22 September 2014. In terms of s 120 of the LPA, different provisions of the LPA will come into operation on dates promulgated in the Government Gazette and, in one instance, after a lapse of a number of years after ch 10 has come into operation.

On 23 January 2015 and in Government Gazette 38412, the President promulgated that parts 1 and 2 (ss 96 – 109) of ch 10 are to come into operation on 1 February 2015. Chapter 2 of the LPA will then come into operation three years from 1 February 2015, thereafter the remaining provisions will come into operation on a date still to be fixed by the President.

The sections that have come into operation pertain to the formation of the National Forum (see 2015 (Jan/Feb) DR 21) and its mandate during the transitional period. The National Forum will be in existence for a period not exceeding three years. Section 97(1) states:

‘(1) The National Forum must, within 24 months after the commencement of this Chapter—

(a )make recommendations to the Minister on the following:

(i) An election procedure for purposes of constituting the Council;

(ii) the establishment of the Provincial Councils and their areas of jurisdiction, taking into account the factors referred to in section 23(2)(a);

(iii) the composition, powers and functions of the Provincial Councils;

(iv) the manner in which the Provincial Councils must be elected;

(v) all the practical vocational training requirements that candidate attorneys or pupils must comply with before they can be admitted by the court as a legal practitioners;

(vi) the right of appearance of a candidate legal practitioner in court or any other institution; and

(vii) a mechanism to wind up the affairs of the National Forum;

(b) prepare and publish a code of conduct for legal practitioners, candidate legal practitioners and juristic entities; and

(c) make rules, as provided for in section 109(2).’

Until the LPA has come into operation in its entirety, very little is expected to change in the way attorneys currently practise. The current Attorneys Act 53 of 1979 and the current rules of the various law societies will still apply to the practice of attorneys.

In the period between 1 February 2015 and the final date on which the LPA comes into operation in its entirety, attorneys will be expected to make input on various issues.

One important issue that attorneys will have to debate and give input on is the forming of a voluntary association that can look after the affairs of the profession as this will not be the function of the LPC. When the LPA has come into operation in its entirety, the current four provincial law societies will cease to exist and therefore also the Law Society of South Africa, the publisher of De Rebus. A Legal Practice Council (LPC) will be formed to regulate legal practitioners. It is of the utmost importance that attorneys from now on sincerely and urgently consider the forming of a voluntary association to look after the affairs of attorneys. There is also debate whether other legal practitioners, and non-practicing legal practitioners should also be members of such a voluntary association.

In the next few months De Rebus intends to publish a series of articles, which will concentrate on the interaction of the profession with the LPA.

Should you have any questions relating to the LPA, you are invited to write to De Rebus, we will then, to the best of our ability, ensure that your questions are published together with answers.

Would you like to write for De Rebus?

De Rebus welcomes article contributions in all 11 official languages, especially 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 now 2000 words.

• Upcoming deadlines for article submissions: 17 March and 20 April 2015.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2015 (March) DR 3.