The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) has held eight meetings regarding the establishment of provincial attorneys’ associations around the country. These took place at the following places:
• East London: 2 October 2019 (and follow up meeting on 6 November 2019)
• Limpopo: 24 October 2019
• Bloemfontein: 25 October 2019
• Nelspruit: 29 October 2019
• Kimberley: 31 October 2019
• Durban: 14 November 2019
• Cape Town: 20 November 2019
The only province that the LSSA could not hold a meeting at was the North West as the attendance confirmation number was too low. This meeting has been postponed to a date still to be confirmed, in January next year.
The LSSA was given a good reception at almost all the provinces. The LSSA was able to get buy-in from the attorneys present for the establishment of LSSA provincial attorneys associations due to the general views expressed that it was important to be affiliated to an established and recognised body such as the LSSA, noting that as the LSSA constituent bodies make up just a fraction of the total number of attorneys in the country.
Out of the nine provinces, seven have endorsed the LSSA provincial attorneys associations. The LSSA resolved to allow the Limpopo attorneys time to meet and to deliberate, and to hold another meeting with them in early 2020.
One of the questions that was repeatedly asked was whether membership to the LSSA attorneys associations was open to advocates. The LSSA responded by advising, that as far as representing advocates was concerned, the LSSA had been formed for attorneys. Advocates had the General Council of the Bar and other Bar Councils. It had always been an objective of the LSSA and its constituent members to have one professional interest body for all legal practitioners – advocates and attorneys. However, the Legal Practice Act made a distinction between advocates and attorneys and at this stage it was important to organise the attorneys under the umbrella of the LSSA.
The LSSA was an established institution. The intention was to build on what it had. In the future advocates with fidelity fund certificates would be included. The LSSA noted that the LPC regulated the profession as a unified body, but in practice, attorneys and advocates were regulated differently in terms of the LPA. It was also resolved that as attorneys, we would organise ourselves first, then invite the advocates at a later stage.
It should also be noted that at almost all the provinces, what was unanimous was that attorneys want to be part of the provincial structures of the LSSA. They all brought up the issue of governance whereby the LSSA advised that it would not force governance structures upon them, however, any governance structure needed to mirror the national structure (LSSA).
After a few meetings and deliberation with the Gauteng Attorneys Association (GAA), the LSSA formally welcomed the first LSSA Provincial Attorneys Association to its ranks and issued a press release and advisory by its President, Mvuzo Notyesi, informing legal practitioners of this historic occasion on Friday 1 November 2019.
The GAA and the LSSA agreed that the GAA would now be referred to as the the Gauteng Attorneys Association of the Law Society of South Africa and that the chairperson of the GAA, Ms Chantelle Gladwin-Wood will chair the new provincial association. The new association will also have a representative on the LSSA House of Constituents and will participate fully in all the functions and activities of the LSSA.
The members agreed in principle to establish an Eastern Cape Attorneys Association of the LSSA. An interim structure comprising of members drawn from the eight circles in the EC will be established. The local circle will be tasked to nominate three people from its city, not necessarily circle members but people that are willing to do the work. A deadline for convening the interim committee and the drafting of a constitution will be established once the task team is formed so that there is ample time to consider the constitution.
The eight attorneys’ circles in the Eastern Cape are:
• East London and Mdantsane
• Port Elizabeth
• King Williams Town
All the circles were tasked to nominate three people to sit on the task team. The task team will develop the constitution. The three nominees from each circle will be from the BLA, NADEL and from the non-BLA and non-NADEL members. East London and Mdantsane was nominated as the convenor because of its central positioning in the Eastern Cape.
The LSSA School for Legal Practice will assist the task team in convening its meetings in terms of venue etc. There will be 24 members in total on the task team. The 24 will oversee the elective process for the executive structure and will oversee the new constitution and that is in line with the LSSA one.
The LSSA requested that at least 12 of the 24 be female practitioners. Communication was sent out to the secretariat of the eight structures informing them of the position taken at the meeting and to request for the names of the task team members by Friday 6 December 2019.
The task team will report to the LSSA and must produce a constitution by a deadline determined by the LSSA. The association should be formally established by no later than February 2020.
The LSSA will hold another meeting in Polokwane in early 2020 as members asked for additional time to discuss among themselves.
It was noted that there was already a task team that was established that was waiting on the finalisation of the LSSA’s constitution amendment in regard to the LSSA provincial attorneys associations. It was resolved that the Free State circles will be combined into the Free State Attorneys Association of the Law Society of South Africa. It was suggested that time frames be set up for the formal establishment. The task team will take the work forward and will see to it that the Free State Attorneys Association of the LSSA is established. The designated chair of the task team will communicate the dates.
There were some advocates that also attended the meeting. Members unanimously agreed to the establishment of the LSSA Provincial attorney’s association for Mpumalanga.
It was agreed that the PC chairperson will liaise with NADEL and BLA structures for names for the establishment of a task team to draw up a constitution, noting it must mirror the governance structure of the LSSA. Some members at the meeting volunteered their services and it was agreed to co-opt them into the task team.
The LSSA also agreed to host an information session on the Highveld and this will be scheduled in Middelburg, although this will not stop the work of the task team in drafting a constitution.
In the Northern Cape, an attorneys’ association had already been established – the Northern Cape Attorneys’ Association (NCAA). However, the LSSA agreed not recognise the association, as its governance structure did not comply with the LSSA’s constitution. Nevertheless, it was resolved that there should be a basis for the LSSA and the NCAA to find a solution.
It was agreed that an association be established. The existing Northern Cape Attorneys’ Association would consider bringing its constitution in line with the LSSA’s constitution so that there would be no need to form another association. All attorneys should participate in the LSSA Provincial Attorneys Association.
It was agreed that there must be a KwaZulu Natal Attorneys Association of the Law Society of South Africa. However, this required a meeting in January or early February to deal with the details of the structures of that organisation and to work on its constitution, noting that the deadline that all LSSA attorneys’ associations must be established by the end of February 2020. A committee was established to start the work. The BLA, NADEL and non-BLA and non-NADEL will nominate two people each and will forward the names to the LSSA, this will be the task team. The task team will be on the ground and will get the ball rolling.
It was suggested that the minutes of the meeting be circulated for benefit of those that were not able to attend to communicate the resolutions adopted. Six names for the task team needed to be submitted to facilitate the establishment of the association. Two names must be submitted from the BLA, NADEL and non-BLA and non-NADEL. The next meeting will be held in the first week of February 2020. It was highlighted that the structures must be established prior to the LSSA AGM in April 2020.
Everyone agreed with the establishment of the association. It was agreed that a task team be formed that will involve the existing circles (with option to co-opt others) as well as the BLA and NADEL. The task team will convene its first meeting to move forward as everyone agreed that the LSSA Provincial Attorneys Association should be established. The names will be submitted to the LSSA.
It was noted that the Western Cape has four associations, namely: Tygerberg, Cape Town, Southern suburbs and Coastal Winelands. The meeting acknowledged the presence of the Overberg association and agreed that they should be invited to send a representative to the task team.
The members should discuss amongst themselves and revert when they were ready but were advised to ensure that this was urgently finalised. A deadline by the latest early February 2020, for the formation of the Provincial Attorneys Association was agreed on.
It was suggested that once the task team was formed, communication be sent to members and to the previous circles informing them of the developments.