Interesting times lie ahead for the legal profession with the Legal Practice Act (LPA) 28 of 2014 due to come into full force in February 2018, save for certain provisions.
The LPA will usher in a new era for the legal profession with new regulations and rules which will regulate the professional activities of attorneys and advocates across different aspects of practice.
To help legal professionals stay abreast of the various changes that will significantly impact the way they practice law, LexisNexis has published the first comprehensive handbook on legal practice under the new Act.
The South African Legal Practitioner: A commentary on the Legal Practice Act is written by advocates Pat Ellis SC and Albert Lamey. The book covers the new South African Legal Practice Council, Voluntary Associations, Entry into the Profession, Forms of Legal Practice, Fees and Costs, Professional Conduct and Discipline, the Legal Practitioners Fidelity Fund, the Handling of Trust Monies, the National Forum and Transitional Provisions.
It explores the most important principles underlying the practice of law in South Africa and the significant consequences of the new Legal Practice Act, drawing a comparison between the existing legal position and what is anticipated to be the new dispensation under the Act.
Speaking at the launch of the book at Circle Chambers in Pretoria, LexisNexis CEO Billy Last said: “We are very proud to be associated with Pat and Albert who bring a wealth of expertise and experience to this new publication. We are certain that this is going to be a useful resource for many attorneys and advocates and hopefully, the law makers too.”
“This publication has been in the pipeline for years and whilst we still await the Rules and Regulations, practitioners need to get to grips with the Act and what has been done so far by the National Forum,” he added.
The South African legal profession is currently divided into advocates and attorneys, with no dual practice permitted. The advocates’ profession in South Africa is presently a referral profession, meaning that a client approaches an attorney who, in turn, instructs an advocate. However, under the new Act, there will be a third group of practitioners – advocates who may take briefs directly from the public.
The Act also provides for a single governing structure for attorneys and advocates, The South African Legal Practice Council.
Attorneys journal De Rebus, published by the Law Society of South Africa, reported in a March 2015 article: “One important issue that attorneys will have to debate and give input on is the forming of a voluntary association that can look after the affairs of the profession as this will not be the function of the Legal Practice Council (LPC). When the LPA has come into operation in its entirety, the current four provincial law societies will cease to exist.”
The South African Legal Practice Council will have ten attorney representatives and six advocate representatives and will be responsible for regulating all legal practitioners. The role of voluntary associations will change. The authors suggest that while the Council will deal with regulatory matters, the voluntary associations may adopt a more representative function on behalf of its members.
The publication also discusses the Code of Conduct published by the National Forum on the Legal Profession to govern the legal profession. Practitioners will need to be informed of the proposed rules and regulations as they will have 30 days to scrutinise these and submit comments, as alerted by the Law Society of South Africa once the rules are gazetted.
Other changes expected under the Legal Practice Act include that attorneys and advocates practicing with a Fidelity Fund certificate will be required, when they receive a new instruction, to provide a client with a cost estimate notice in writing specifying all particulars relating to the envisaged costs of the legal services. Non-compliance will constitute misconduct.
It is not clear whether there will be a distinction between practical vocational training requirements for attorneys and advocates, but the Act does envisage vocational training to be introduced for advocates before they are admitted.
Currently the attorneys’ profession funds their training with grants from the Fund, whilst advocates have no such funding. If vocational training becomes compulsory for all candidate legal practitioners, proper funding will be required. This may impact the annual subscription fee for legal practitioners.
All candidate legal practitioners will have to perform community service. The Minister will prescribe the requirements for such community service.
The South African Legal Practitioner: A Commentary on the Legal Practice (June 2017) is available in print (ISBN: 060LEGPRACSYS) or via the Lexis Mobile app (ISBN: MOB0409108804) which allows the customer to download content to their laptop or tablet providing off line access to commentaries, legislation and case law.
The title can be ordered through the LexisNexis online bookstore.
For more information, or to order a copy, call the LexisNexis customer care line 0860 765 432 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.