The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) – together with its constituent members, the Black Lawyers Association, National Association of Democratic Lawyers and the four statutory provincial Law Societies; the Law Society of the Northern Provinces, the Cape Law Society, the Law Society of the Free State, the Natal Law Society and with the support of the Foundation for Human Rights – has undertaken a dialogue project aimed at investigating relevant models for the implementation of a national model for the delivery of pro bono/community services by the South African legal profession. A national stakeholder engagement session hosted during March 2016 launched the consultation process.
One of the purposes of Legal Practice Act (LPA) is to broaden access to justice by putting in place measures to provide for the rendering of community service by candidate legal practitioners and practising legal practitioners. The LPA compels the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services to prescribe the requirements for community service after consultation with the South African Legal Practice Council.
Further consultative workshops took place recently in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, East London, Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg and were attended by legal practitioners and a diverse range of stakeholders. Discussions reviewed, among other things, the current context of pro bono services and how the envisaged system might work. Participants at the workshops were essentially asked to discuss and propose replies to the following key questions:
- What do you want to see changed or added to the community service framework that is not there now; that is, what aspects/services should community service entail?
- How do you envisage the system working? Provide practical steps.
- How would you incentivise and encourage participation and then promote or publicise the proposed changes you would like to see?
Section 29 of the LPA: ‘Community service
29.(1) The Minister must, after consultation with the Council, prescribe the requirements for community service from a date to be determined by the Minister, and such requirements may include –
(a) community service as a component of practical vocational training by candidate legal practitioners; or
(b) a minimum period of recurring community service by practising legal practitioners upon which continued enrolment as a legal practitioner is dependent.
(2) Community service for the purposes of this section may include, but is not limited, to the following:
(a) Service in the State, approved by the Minister, in consultation with the Council;
(b) service at the South African Human Rights Commission;
(c) service, without any remuneration, as a judicial officer in the case of legal practitioners, including as a commissioner in the small claims courts;
(d) the provision of legal education and training on behalf of the Council, or on behalf of an academic institution or non-governmental organisation; or
(e) any other service which the candidate legal practitioner or the legal practitioner may want to perform, with the approval of the Minister.
(3) The Council may, on application and on good cause shown, exempt any candidate legal practitioner or legal practitioner from performing community service, as set out in the rules.’
Legal practitioners are invited to submit their views on the above (and generally section 29 of the Legal Practice Act dealing with community service) to the LSSA by 27 November 2017 tot he LSSA at e-mail kris@LSSA.org.za for inclusion in the final report on community service, which will in due course be submitted to South African Legal Practice Council, once iys is established.