Summit on Briefing Patterns March 2016

Transformation of the legal profession, particularly with regard to briefing patterns, has become a topical and contentious issue in South Africa. In an attempt to address this, the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) hosted a summit on the distribution of work to attorneys and briefing patterns of advocates.

The summit was held on 31 March 2016 and was opened by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

Stakeholders attending the summit were taken briefly through past and present discriminatory practices that are experienced by legal practitioners when it comes to the distribution of work and briefing. The focus of the summit, however, was on finding solutions and devising a monitoring mechanism that will ensure that the identified resolutions are implemented. In preparing for the summit the LSSA sought to collate information on the distribution of legal work from government departments and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) as the largest consumers of legal services. This research together with the experiences of two panels – one comprising legal practitioners and other the consumers of legal services – comprises the first part of the summit. The second part brought all stakeholders, including legal practitioners, representatives of SOEs and government departments as well as other consumers of legal services, together in discussion groups to thrash out practical solutions and draft resolutions on the way forward.
Pictured above: Max Boqwana, Samantha Martin, Dali Mpofu SC and Baitseng Rangata made up the legal practitioners’ panel at the Summit.

Read the news report on the summit in the May 2016 issue of De Rebus.
Read the report on by Prof Tsili Phooko on briefing patterns (July 2016).

View the summit programme.
Submissions were called for through advertisements in the media. View the call for submissions.
View the presentation by Nonkululeko Sindane, Director-General of Justice and Constitutional Development, on 31 March 2016.
View the presentation by Tsili Phooko, Senior Lecturer, Unisa and LSSA consultant, on 31 March 2016.
A full report on the summit will be available by the end of May 2016.

Resolutions adopted at the Summit on Briefing Patterns in the Legal Profession
held at Emperor’s Palace, Kempton Park 31 March 2016

The Summit expresses its deepest concerns about the legal briefing patterns in the public and private sectors insofar as this endangers the constitutional democracy and insofar as there appears to be bias against black practitioners and women practitioners in these sectors.

This flies against the principles of non-racialism and non-sexism as espoused in the Preamble and elsewhere in the Constitution.

It further has a negative impact on the occupational progression of practitioners in these
groupings and their economic wellbeing.

The Summit recognises that meaningful action must be taken by all stakeholders from the date of this Summit and that this process be subjected to strict accountability.

The Government is expected to embrace decisive action and must not be seen to promote the skewed briefing patterns as set out above.
It is, therefore, proposed that:

1. Representatives of the following sections nominate a representative to a Task Team to be convened by the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) –

• The State through the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
• Three representatives of the attorneys’ profession through the LSSA.
• Three representatives of the advocates’ profession.
• Two representatives of business through the Black Business Council and Business Unity South Africa.
• One representative by the six large law firms represented.

2. This group will convene within two months from the date of the Summit and will consider an agenda, inter alia including:

2.1 Developing a uniform protocol on the procurement of legal services;
2.2 Setting of targets for entities doing State work;
2.3 Establishing a common register for the recording of State legal work, with reference to name, frequency, value and nature of brief;
2.4 Drafting a Code of Conduct for private enterprise in respect of legal work, with which the private sector can associate;
2.5 Considering relevant research, training and development;
2.6 Monitoring progress with regard to briefing patterns for a report to Summit delegates and for considering the necessity of a follow-up summit;
In this respect, performance by the State and corporate sector factor in deciding whether the Summit should be reconvened.

3. The Task Team will give due consideration to all proposals and concerns raised by the delegates at this Summit.

Download the resolutions.

31 March 2017: Read the statement here by the Action Group on Briefing Patterns in the Legal Profession — on progress made one year after the summit.