Legal Practice Bill signing ‘a historic event’

2014-09-24 08:36

The signing of the Legal Practice Bill into law by President Jacob Zuma was welcomed by the Law Society of South Africa.

“This is a historic event for the legal profession as it signals the formal start to a new dispensation,” law society co-chairpersons Max Boqwana and Ettienne Barnard said yesterday.

It would usher in a transparent, transformed, public-centred and responsive profession, changes which the profession has long supported.

They said the law society had cooperated fully in the long process that had led to the bill, and the society had committed itself to cooperating actively with all relevant stakeholders in the transitional phase.

The transitional phase would come into effect once the implementation date for Chapter 10 of the act, dealing with the National Forum for the Legal Profession, was proclaimed.

“This will indicate the start of a negotiation process between the stakeholders to put in place the nuts and bolts that will ensure the proper and efficient functioning of a South African Legal Practice Council,” Boqwana and Barnard said.

The council would both protect and inform the public, as well as ensuring a strong, independent, vibrant and effective legal profession.

Earlier yesterday, the presidency announced that Zuma had signed the bill into law.

Spokesperson Mac Maharaj said the bill’s signing had been the fruition of many years of discussions, negotiations and even concessions. It was begun in the time of the late Dullah Omar.

Omar was democratic South Africa’s first justice minister.

“While the time taken to promote and enact this historical statute might seem overly long, the time taken has been well spent.”

The lengthy deliberations during the bill’s passage through Parliament ensured that its many provisions had been thoroughly considered.

This was aimed at ensuring a legal profession that was not only transformed, but also independent, and promoted the values underpinning the Constitution and upholding the rule of law.

As a result of the bill, all lawyers, being advocates and attorneys, would for the first time fall under a single regulatory body, the South African Legal Practice Council.

The council would be assisted by provincial councils in its daily operations.

“This council will consist mostly of legal practitioners but also of other important role players whose expertise and experience will enhance the objects of this body,” Maharaj said.

“While there is a single regulatory body, the Legal Practice Act allows for advocates and attorneys to continue in their respective areas of specialisation.”

One important feature of the bill would see disciplinary bodies that adjudicated on cases of alleged misconduct being open and transparent.

These would consist of lawyers and lay persons.

Another important feature would see a legal services ombudsman established.

The bill’s full implementation would only take place after the National Forum on the Legal Profession had completed its mandate, for which a period of three years had been given.

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