On 10 June 2020 the Western Cape High Court and the Equality Court of South Africa handed down judgment in the matter between The Cape Bar versus Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and Others (the judgment), which concerns the constitutionality of Regulations and Rules published under the Legal Practice Act (the Act) aimed at regulating the elections and composition of the nine provincial councils of the Legal Practice Council (the LPC).
Given its significance, the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) participated in proceedings as a friend of the court. Several significant observations emanated from the judgment, which the LSSA hopes will help stakeholders navigate their way towards a transformed and restructured profession, including:
- The Rules and Regulations are aimed at creating equity within the provincial councils to enable such to regulate the profession.
- The goals of diversity, inclusivity, and ongoing reconciliation are for the societal good and crucial elements of transformation.
- Unfortunately, we are yet to reach a stage where we need not have to rely on legislation to ensure representivity, inclusivity and diversity on structures of governance.
In their concluding remark, the judges crucially reminded all that ‘the election of black women to the governing structures of the profession is not in itself sufficient to fulfil the transformation objective of the legal profession. Transformation is an imperative that must extend beyond that, to addressing matters that include briefing patterns, attraction, retention and offering support to black women legal practitioners, among others.’
LSSA President, Mvuzo Notyesi said: ‘The judgment will hopefully inspire a renewed commitment by all role players to pursue the Act’s noble objectives of transforming and restructuring the legal profession in a manner that embraces the values underpinning the Constitution.’
Discussions on the Legal Practice Bill, aimed at transforming the governance structures of the legal profession, commenced as early as 2001. This has been a testing process for the legal profession, but there has been considerable progress. The judgment symbolises another milestone in our journey to a transformed and restructured legal profession as court proceedings offered parties the opportunity to debate and ventilate their views on the elections and composition of the provincial councils. More importantly, it offered the court the opportunity to validate the constitutionality of the underlying Regulations and Rules.
Mr Notyesi adds: ‘In a similar vein, the LSSA together with its constituent members, have already implemented measures aimed at addressing the broader transformational challenges facing the South African legal profession and we are confident that this judgment will inspire renewed impetus on the part of legal professionals and representative bodies.’