Free legal advice days offered
Cape Town - The department of justice and constitutional development will host legal advice days to make the public more aware of legal services available.
"We're grateful to the legal profession: The Cape Bar Council as well as the Law Society as well as Sawla [South African Women in Law Association], and many other organisations such as Nadel [National Association of Democratic Lawyers]," Advocate Hishaam Mohamed of the department told News24.
The department believes that it has to educate the public about the legal services which are available and has undertaken the free legal advice days in the Western Cape on August 25 and 26 at various local offices.
"Ours is a new democracy, and we have established the rule of law through our very anchored constitutionally driven courts, and we believe that the rule of law as well as constitutional development - which it's our task to lead public education about how our Constitution works, but more importantly, how they can access those rights," Mohamed said.
The cost of hiring an attorney can be excessive and the legal advice days represent an opportunity to have access to expert legal advice.
"We do generally work on an hourly rate, starting out anywhere from about R400 to R500 per hour going all the way up to about R3 000 - R4 000 per hour, obviously depending on your level of seniority," said Advocate Shelley Witten of the Cape Bar Council.
"The legal advice offices are structured in such a way that they give advice to people who approach them; the differentiation in these two days is that we will have expert legal advice through attorneys," Mohamed said.
He added that the department was concerned about the caseload in civil matters before the courts and there were strategies in place to begin addressing this.
"Civil matters by nature has its own rules in terms of time frames - there's a lot of paperwork. The number of matters perhaps is a concern and the capacity of our department to manage that.
"So we believe that the more our practitioners can get involved in exercises such as the Access to Justice Week as they are doing this year in particular, the more we are able to expose our community to the procedures and particularly, how to access these services."
Organisations like the Cape Bar Council also provide free legal services to the public, assigning a given number of hours that attorneys have to provide services for.
"The Cape Bar Council does have a pro bono committee which actually allocates advocates who render services on a pro bono basis to members of the public.
"So that in instances where they aren't able to afford legal council to represent them in court, we do have members from our ranks who will then be appointed to assist those members to see them through the entire process up until such a court order is made," said Witten.
Members of the public who want legal advice should contact their nearest community advice office in the Western Cape or the department's website.
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