GCB welcomes introduction of legal practice bill

Council elects Ishmael Semenya SC as chairman, supports move to make legal profession demographically representative (July 24)


The General Council of the Bar of South Africa ("GCB") held its 67th annual general meeting at the Elangeni Hotel in Durban on Friday, 20th and Saturday, 21st July 2012.

The Sydney and Felicia Kentridge Award for Service to Law in Southern Africa was awarded to the former Chief Justice Sandile Ncgobo by the GCB at a gala dinner on the Friday evening. The award is presented annually to a person who has made an exceptional contribution to the development of the law in Southern Africa. The former Chief Justice needs no introduction and his legendary service is a matter of public record. The Chief Justice Mogoeng addressed the guests at the dinner.

At the conclusion of the annual general meeting Ishmael Semenya SC was elected as chairman for 2012/13 with the following members of his executive: Izak Smuts SC (deputy chairman), McCaps Motimele SC (vice chairman), Anthea Platt (honorary secretary), Johanni Barnardt (assistant honorary secretary), Tayob Aboobaker SC, Andrea Gabriel SC, Kgomotso Moroka SC, Jeremy Muller SC, Craig Watt-Pringle SC, Gerrit Pretorius SC (ex officio as past chair), Archie Findlay SC (ex officio as convenor of the National Bar Examination Board) and Mbuyiseli Madlanga SC (ex officio as the GCB's representative on the Judicial Service Commission (who serves with Izak Smuts SC as the GCB's other representative)).

It is also important to record that at the annual general meeting a resolution was adopted in terms of which the advocates' profession expressed its support for parts of the Bill in principle. The GCB:

1.1 Noted the introduction of the Legal Practice Bill ("the Bill") which, inter  alia, seeks legitimately to address the following issues:

1.1.1. The fact that the practice of law is regulated by different laws which apply in different parts of the national territory and as a result is fragmented;

1.1.2. The fact that access to affordable legal services is not a reality for most South Africans;

1.1.3. The fact that the advocates' and the attorneys' professions are not representative of the demographics of South Africa;

1.1.4. The fact that access to legal services is limited;

1.2. Welcomed:

1.2.1 the introduction of the Bill as a means to address the aforesaid inadequacies.

1.2.2 the acknowledgement in the Bill, of the right of advocates to practise their profession;

1.2.3 the fact that a stated objective of the Bill is to strengthen the independence of the advocates and attorneys professions and to ensure that the rule of law is upheld.

1.3 Resolved to work with government and the legislature, the Law Society of South Africa, the BLA, Nadel and all other stakeholders in order to address the legitimate concerns of such stakeholders and to this end to engage in frank and robust discussion with the legislative and executive arms of government, based on the following principles:

1.3.1 that advocates should have the right to freedom of association, in particular the right to organize themselves in their own bodies.

1.3.2 that the advocates' profession should be recognized as a distinct profession within the wider realm of legal practice, and to this end should be able to:

(a) administer a system of pupillage or practical training required for admission to the profession and in so doing promote access to the profession by historically disadvantaged individuals;

(b) formulate and administer a set of rules of conduct for its members and a disciplinary system for the infraction thereof;

(c) employ personnel and own assets for the administration of the profession;

(d) ensure that the fees charged by its members are reasonable.

2. The GCB considers the retention of the above principles as being in accordance with the aims and objectives of the Bill.

Statement issued by the General Council of the Bar, July 24 2012

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