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Justice holds first national forum on legal profession

By Nana Mzila, Internal Communication

The department held its first national forum on the legal profession in an effort to find ways on how to regulate the legal sector whilst providing a legislative framework on the transformation of the profession.

The national forum, which took place on 31 March 2015, discussed ways in which the legal profession can be improved and transformed where Justice and Constitutional Development Minister, Advocate Michael Masutha, MP, addressed delegates at the St George Hotel in Pretoria.

The forum’s objective is to provide a legislative framework for the transformation and restructuring of the legal profession in line with constitutional imperatives so as to facilitate and enhance an independent legal profession that broadly reflect the diversity and demographics of the country as set out in the Legal Practice Act.

Delivering his keynote address, Minister Masutha noted that the national forum marked the beginning of an important era in the transformation of the legal profession which spans over 15 years.

“As we begin this journey, we must be mindful of the responsibility bestowed on us, of ensuring that everyone in South Africa enjoys equal benefit and protection of the law as enshrined in the Bill of Rights,” he remarked.

The minister also raised the significance of the forum, saying that in terms of demographics, it needs, to reflect full representation of the South African society along the racial, gender and disability parity. “I am, however, confident that the internal consultation process will yield desired outcomes so that we see full representation of the country’s demographics,” he said.

Deputy Minister John Jeffery echoed the minister’s sentiments, saying that when it comes to transforming the legal profession comparing to other countries, South Africa lacks behind. He said the process began 20 years ago where attorneys and lawyers sat together to resolve issues within the law profession such as the changing of names of various law societies.

“The reason for establishing this forum is to give attorneys and lawyers a chance to resolve issues that were not able to be resolved years ago. It will look at the election procedure for the purposes of constituting a council. It will also establish provincial councils and their areas of jurisdiction,” the deputy minister explained.

Gender representation in the forum also dominated the meeting where Advocate Martha Mbhele raised a concern that black women attorneys who opened their own practices have to close and join other law firms due to sustainability and lack of support in the male-dominated profession.

During the meeting, the department’s Chief Financial Officer, Ms Louraine Rossouw announced that the department has set out R17.9 million which will assist the forum in fulfilling its mandate.

All parties including the National Bar Council of South Africa (NBCSA), Legal Aid South Africa (LASA), and National Forum of Advocates (NFA) who attended the forum expressed their commitment -in playing their part towards achieving goals set out by the national forum.


Published: 02 April 2015