SA attorneys, advocates vote for new transformation council

The panel of judges presiding in Constitutional Court. (File, City Press)
The panel of judges presiding in Constitutional Court. (File, City Press)

South African attorneys and advocates have cast their votes for council members to the Legal Practice Council (LPC), which aims to transform the legal profession.

This means advocates and attorneys will now be regulated by the LPC, while the General Council of the Bar of South Africa (GCB) will operate as a voluntary body.

READ Legal Practice Council: another threat to judicial independence

Last month, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha briefed the media on the implementation of the Legal Practice Act of 2014.

The Act brings into operation a single unified statutory Legal Practice Council that will regulate all legal practitioners, candidate legal practitioners and juristic entities.

Masutha told reporters in Pretoria that the bar associations would no longer have the responsibility of regulating the profession.

READ: New era in the legal profession as voting starts for new regulatory body

Transformation

He said the GCB could, however, continue to exist as a voluntarily association to advance non- statutory interests of the profession.

Masutha said the new council would serve as a "catalyst to ensure that there is transformation".

Charity Nzuza, from the National Forum on the Legal Profession, told News24 this week that the new body was aimed at transforming the profession.

"We want to transform the profession, which for years has been dominated by white men," she said.

The election process began on September 19 and closed on Wednesday. Nzuza said the new body would be fully established on November 1, and would consist of 16 members.

Ten of them would be attorneys (seven black and three white members). The six advocates would consist of four black and two white members, Nzuza said.

Meanwhile, GCB chairperson Craig Watt-Pringle SC, conceded that the GCB needed to "reconsider and adapt its role to the changing circumstances that confront us as a profession".

He said a positive aspect of the LPA [Law Practice Act] was that all practicing lawyers would be regulated, "whereas the Lincoln Lawyers - as we sometimes refer to independent advocates - had virtually not been regulated at all".

"The government decided, at least a decade ago, that the legal profession should be regulated and indeed was for many years wedded to fusion of the attorneys and advocates professions.

"The GCB was the only organisation that effectively prevented that from happening, although the LPC is a council which will regulate the entire legal profession, and so we are in a sense a step closer to fusion than was previously the case."

Watt-Pringle added that the reason he did not see the LPC as a replacement for the bars was that, "under the current dispensation, there has been no compulsion on members to belong to a bar".

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