‘Defend the rule of law for advocates’

2013-07-24 00:00

THE new Legal Profession Amendment Bill threatens the core of the advocates’ profession, warned advocate Ishmael Semenya SC, chair of the general bar council.

In his annual report, Semenya said the rule of law must be defended in these “turbulent” days for the advocates’ profession.

He also added his support to the extension of the LL.B degree because the current requirements were inadequate.

He did, however, welcome parts of the contentious amendment bill. This includes that a single set of national rules should govern justice; that legal fees must be made more affordable and accessible; and that the profession must become more demographically representative.

He also welcomed the aims of protecting the independence of the legal profession and extending the rule of law.

The general bar council will, however, continue to engage with relevant parties about the parts in the amendment bill that concern them.

This includes that advocates must organise themselves professionally, rather than be organised by the state (as is suggested) and also includes learnerships or other practical training, as well as disciplinary issues and reasonable fees.

Semenya feels strongly that it would be a mistake if advocates take instructions directly from the public, and wants the system of referrals by attorneys to be maintained.

He said the current system works well and its maintenance especially important for the fair transformation of the legal profession.

Semenya said black advocates benefited from the rule that advocates may enter into partnerships and hence have to compete on an equal footing with each other, compared to firms of attorneys, which, according to Semenya, often compete with overseas firms against smaller black firms.

He also pointed out that the question hanging over the constitutionality of senior advocates — the so-called SCs — would soon get an answer from the Constitutional Court.

Semenya expects that the new Legal Profession Amendment Bill will place the members of the bar council and the independent council under the same rules, which will make big demands from the bar council.

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