What is the difference between the LSSA and the LPC?

May 1st, 2021
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I have written numerous editorials on the workings of the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA), the relevance of the organisation and its value to legal practitioners (see box below). There is widespread confusion in the profession about the difference between the Legal Practice Council (LPC) and the LSSA. This stems from the fact that many legal practitioners do not know that the functions performed by the LPC are vastly different from those performed by the LSSA.

The LPC is a statutory body that was established in terms of s 4 of the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (the LPA). According to the LPC’s website, the LPC ‘is mandated to set norms and standards, to provide for the admission and enrolment of legal practitioners and to regulate the professional conduct of legal practitioners to ensure accountability’. The website goes on further to state that the LPC and its Provincial Councils ‘regulate the affairs of and exercise jurisdiction over all legal practitioners (attorneys and advocates) and candidate legal practitioners.’

Section 5 of the LPA sets out the objectives of the LPC, which are to:

‘(a) facilitate the realisation of the goal of a transformed and restructured legal profession that is accountable, efficient and independent;

(b) ensure that fees charged by legal practitioners for legal services rendered are reasonable and promote access to legal services, thereby enhancing access to justice;

(c) promote and protect the public interest;

(d) regulate all legal practitioners and all candidate legal practitioners;

(e) preserve and uphold the independence of the legal profession;

(f)  enhance and maintain the integrity and status of the legal profession;

(g) determine, enhance and maintain appropriate standards of professional practice and ethical conduct of all legal practitioners and all candidate legal practitioners;

(h) promote high standards of legal education and training, and compulsory post-qualification professional development;

(i) promote access to the legal profession, in pursuit of a legal profession that broadly reflects the demographics of the Republic;

(j) ensure accessible and sustainable training of law graduates aspiring to be admitted and enrolled as legal practitioners;

(k) uphold and advance the rule of law, the administration of justice, and the Constitution of the Republic; and

(l) give effect to the provisions of this Act in order to achieve the purpose of this Act, as set out in section 3.’

In a broader sense, the objectives of the LPC are to represent the public’s interest, while regulating and disciplining legal practitioners and candidate legal practitioners. On the other hand, the LSSA’s objectives are to:

  • be the voice of the profession;
  • conduct assessments for entry to the profession;
  • offer the best legal education training (mandatory and post-qualification professional development);
  • represent practitioners’ interests in both local and international forums;
  • be a forum for practitioners to gather and deliberate;
  • offer practice management resources;
  • ensure there is transformation of the profession;
  • lobby government on crucial issues that are of interest to the profession and the public;
  • comment on proposals affecting the profession and society; and
  • publish a digital legal journal, for all legal practitioners.

Even though there may be similarities in the work done by the LPC and the LSSA, one important difference is that the LSSA represents legal practitioners, while the LPC regulates legal practitioners.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2021 (May) DR 3.

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