|Attorneys in South Africa are registered with the four statutory provincial law societies in terms of the Attorneys Act, 1979. Since March 1998 the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) has represented the attorneys’ profession by bringing together its six constituent members in a national, non-statutory body. The LSSA's predecessor was the Association of Law Societies of the Republic of South Africa, which existed from 1938 to 1998. The LSSA six constituent members are the Black Lawyers Association (BLA), the Cape Law Society, the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society, the Law Society of the Free State, the Law Society of the Northern Provinces and the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel).
The LSSA represents the attorneys’ profession in South Africa, which comprises attorneys and candidate attorneys. See statistics.
In terms of the Attorneys Act, 1979 attorneys must register with the provincial law society where they practice, so attorneys are members of the four provincial law societies referred to above. The provincial law societies also register the articles of clerkship for candidate attorneys. They are the regulatory and disciplinary bodies for attorneys. If a member of the public is dissatisfied with the service received from his/her attorney, he/she can lodge a complaint with the relevant provincial law society where the attorney is registered.
The LSSA’s forerunner, the Association of Law Societies – an association of the four statutory law societies established in 1938 – brought together the statutory law societies and the non-statutory lawyers’ organisations (BLA and Nadel) after 1994, and, after protracted discussions and negotiations, a statement of principles was signed by the six constituents in July 1996 which set out the guidelines for national restructuring.
The statement of principles envisaged a national statutory structure, with nine provincial substructures. The LSSA – an interim structure with a council comprising a 50:25:25 representation of the statutory (law society) and non-statutory (BLA and Nadel) representatives – would take over the role and assets of the ALS with the aim of encouraging unity between members of the profession, overcoming the divisions of the past and promoting new legislation to create a national, unified structure for the governance of the profession.
In September 1996 a team began drafting the LSSA constitution and a provisional twenty-person committee, echoing the future LSSA council, was set up to steer the various drafts of the constitution through the six constituent members. In February 1998 the twenty-person committee met for the last time to reaffirm the commitment of the then ALS, BLA and Nadel to the restructuring process and to finalise arrangements for the signing of the LSSA constitution.
The constitution of the LSSA was signed at a special ceremony in Parliament in March 1998 attended by all the councilors of the six constituent members, the late Minister of Justice Dullah Omar, a number of parliamentarians, members of the judiciary, representatives of the General Council of the Bar (which represents advocates) and the International Bar Association.
1998 Esmè du Plessis and Dr Willie Seriti (now Judge Seriti)
The mission and objectives of the Law Society of South Africa are contained in the constitution.