Ms Kathleen Matolo-Dlepu, Chairperson of the Legal Practice Council
Advocate Anthea Platt, Deputy Chairperson of the Legal Practice Council
Advocate Ghandi Badela, Member of the LPC Executive Committee
Ms Charity Nzuza, Executive Officer, LPC
Members of Legal Sector Code Steering Committee
Members of all various legal bodies
Ladies and Gentlemen; and
I wish to extend my gratitude to the leadership of the Legal Practice Council for inviting me to be part of this historic moment for the legal profession.
Chairperson, one of the most striking phenomena in our nation is not only our ability to lament our historical legacy of inequality and the systemic disempowerment of black people, but our ability to devise transformatory tools and fail to implement them.
A code, charter or any policy for that matter is in itself meaningless unless it is implemented.
The Legal Sector Code should ensure participation of black and female practitioners in the mainstream of the economy, competition law, telecommunications, mining etc.
Training and skills transfer should be at the core of the transformation project; but this should not allow anyone to use the issue of skills to exclude black practitioners. The reason the legal profession is called practicing law is that there should be room for mistakes that will lead to perfection. The important issue is how you mitigate the risks for the clients through skills transfer and training programmes.
I hope the legal sector code will also have tools to monitor the implementation of the code such as the Legal Sector Implementation Council. Other sectors within South African society have already introduced their own codes; this gives you an opportunity to learn from the successes and failures of other sector codes.
It is my sincere hope that during this administration we do everything within our control to implement the many policies at our disposal.
Whilst the Office of the State Attorney is playing its part to ensure that legal work which comes from various government departments is shared across a very wide spectrum of practitioners, the reality is that this obligation should not be on government alone. And as such, we are not able to address the imbalances which are manifest across the profession.
Chairperson, as I stand here today, I am reminded of a speech delivered by our liberation stalwart Oliver Reginald Tambo in New York in January of 1987 when he was addressing a meeting of the African American Institute and the Foreign Police Association. He argued and I quote "In our proposition as to what South Africa should look like, we do address the question of the economy too. And our starting point is what any economy should serve - the people. The economy should be so handled that the wealth is equitably distributed. Under apartheid and under the existing system, there is no distribution of wealth, experts have said. What there is, is abject poverty affecting millions of people in the midst of that wealth. It is a glaring injustice which must be redressed …" close quote
These aspirations expressed by Oliver Tambo are codified in the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Act, chief amongst those is to ensure that we
To this end, from a government perspective we have made several attempts to ensure that we equip both the legal profession and society in general to hold us accountable on briefing patterns. The Office of the State Attorney publishes monthly statistics in this regard.
Chairperson, I have no doubt that the current statistics can improve as the Office of the State Attorney becomes more efficient and effective through the policies that the Solicitor General will introduce in due course. Having said that, it is evident that these interventions from the office of the state attorney will not be enough. This is because State legal work is only a small a fraction of the pie; the private sector holds the rest of the pie.
Therefore, this draft legal code that we presenting today seeks to bring the private sector to the table.
Chairperson, one of the most unfortunate things about our constitutional order is that often people think that the Constitution can only be implemented by government. So often it is only government institutions that are held to the ideals of transformation which are contained in our Constitution.
However, our Constitution is the supreme law and it enjoins of all us to commit to the realisation all of its ideals and obligations; the private sector can no longer cherry-pick the parts of the Constitution that favour it and disregard the ones that require a concerted effort towards the economic transformation of our society.
Therefore we must ensure, through this legal code, that we entrench section 217 of our Constitution across the board. We must ensure that, the procurement of legal services, is done in accordance with a system which is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective.
Most importantly, this framework must enable the private sector to help society as a whole protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, who have been systemically disadvantaged by historical unfair discrimination.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for “a new social compact among all role players business, labour, community and government to restructure the economy and achieve inclusive growth”. This draft legal code does not only contribute to the implementation of the President’s vision, but it also a deliberate effort to co-ordinate and implement economic transformation in the legal profession.
I personally look forward to seeing the final legal code coming into fruition. I have noted chairperson that the Steering Committee would like to conclude these consultations by mid-December 2020. This effectively means that by early next year we will be in a position to implement a document which contains the broader perspectives of stakeholders.
We wish you well in all your consultations across the country.
We also hope that the profession as a whole will find each other on various issues affecting the profession.
Today I have no doubt that we have set path towards transformation which will result in a catalytic and systemic shift in the legal profession as we know it. We cannot falter, we must not let this task fall by the wayside.