New president of KZN Law Society hopes to improve image of lawyers

2013-12-24 00:00

CHANGING the way lawyers are viewed will be a key priority for the newly appointed president of the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society.

“There are all these jokes about lawyers ,that they are very expensive, they do not do their work properly … These are all public perceptions that are out there and that is something that I want to change”, said Poobie Govindasamy.

The KZN Law Society is the administrative body of the profession in the province and keeps lawyers on the right side of ethics and law.

Govindasamy (55) is a jack of all trades. A lawyer, an activist and a soccer administrator, he has been deployed by the National Association of Democratic Lawyers and the Black Lawyers Association to serve a one-year term as the president of the KZN Law Society. He was elected on October 31.

Govindasamy became a lawyer after watching his family struggle. His father, a unionist, had to borrow money from loan sharks to keep the family afloat as his union activism cost him his job regularly.

Sheriffs would often come to his home and take furniture away, and at times his father was arrested for non-payment of debt. He felt all these laws were unjust and that spurred him on to study law.

“Access to justice is important. There is a lot of information out there, for instance people think that seeing a lawyer could be expensive. They do not know that we have a pro bono project where a member of the public can consult a lawyer for a specific time free of charge and that lawyer will advise them about their case …

“We have many lawyers that do pro bono work. Others spend their time representing clients in the small claims court free of charge, and these are all the positive things that the public do not know about lawyers.”

Govindasamy said as president, most of his time will be dedicated to improving the image and the lawyers’ profession. This will involve ensuring that lawyers adhere to their professional ethics, managing careers of new entrants and those coming back to the profession following suspension.

“About 10% of those practising in KwaZulu-Natal are suspended every year … We have to make sure that when those people are re-entering the profession, they are ethical and ready to resume the profession.”

Speaking on his involvement in soccer, Govindasamy, who is a member of the South African Football Association’s national executive committee and also the president of the SA Indoor Football Association, said he had been involved in sport, and particularly soccer, all his life.

“One of the things that has been neglected in this country is development. Previously, we had sound development and now we are trying to get that back.”

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