On Thursday 10 August 2017 the South African legal community woke up to the sad news of passing of Nic Swart. Nic died in his hotel room in Botswana where he was representing the South African legal profession at the Southern African Development Community Lawyers Association (SADC-LA). Nic Joined Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) in 1989 and at the time of his passing was the Chief Executive Officer of the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) and the director of its education wing, the Legal Education and Development (LEAD). Under the leadership of Nic LEAD developed many educational programs to empower young lawyers and new entrants to the profession. Continuous legal education was also at the center of his heart. Nic’s efforts and strategic direction made LEAD a world class legal education service provider it is today.
The LSSA is a voluntary association of the Cape Law Society, Free State Law Society, Kwazulu Natal Law Society and the Law Society of the Northern Provinces, BLA and the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel). In the pursuit of transforming the legal profession and developing attorneys through Practical Legal Training and Continuous Legal Education, Nic worked closely with the BLA. On issues where BLA and him did not agree, disagreed with respect. Nic was a man of good work ethos and was not a procrastinator. His colleagues and subordinates can confirm his high work ethics, for instance the night before his passing Nic was busy at work giving strategic directions and leadership through emails on some of the LSSA projects. He took pride in his work. In his profile he stated that, “I enjoy facilitation of events and activity and speaking on topics that I am passionate about. I maintain: Passion for skills transfer and leadership development. Faith in great power of teamwork. Particular interest in change management.”
Nic leaves us at a very crucial time in the transformation of the legal profession in South Africa. He was very instrumental in directing the future of the legal education under the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (the LPA) dispensation. He produced copious well researched legal education documents giving expert advice to the LSSA members in the National Forum (NF), a transitional body responsible for the transformation of the legal profession in terms of the LPA. Nic was very eager to see the success of the NF and the ultimate composition of the Legal Practice Council (LPC). Nic invested a lot of his time and energy doing comparative studies in respect of the regulations of the legal profession in other jurisdictions. Nic attended all the Plenary Sessions of the NF in order to have firsthand account of the developments intended to shape the legal profession. At the time of his passing Nic had just assembled a team of attorneys to visit the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in the last week of August 2017 to conduct a fact finding mission and for the two bars to exchange notes on each other’s experiences. This he did to find workable templates which could be applied in South Africa.
Nic was a person intelligent, full of vision, with his mind was always focused on the future. He applied his mind earnestly on the affairs of the legal profession. In mid-June 2017 Nic launched a project called Profession in 2025: What should it look like? This was his personal project to survey the views about the future. This is one of the many challenges he leaves the profession with. We have no choice but to rise up to his expectations and disappoint. BLA is heartbroken by this loss and believes that Nic still had a role to play in the transition to the new dispensation.
BLA will miss counsel from Nic who was always available to share his wisdom with whoever wanted to tap therefrom. Nic had great listening skills. He listened with patience and interest without interjecting. He gave respect to all people he interacted with irrespective of their social and educational standing in the community.
Nic died at work in a foreign country – what a better way of serving your country and saying good bye to colleagues? Memories of Nic will permanently remain engraved in our minds. BLA sends its heartfelt condolences to his wife Mariette, his two daughters, the LSSA Council, the LSSA and LEAD staff.
Black Lawyers Association: President
082 369 2017
10 August 2017