No intention to control the legal profession - Radebe

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pretoria - Government has no intention of controlling the legal profession in the country, says Justice Minister Jeff Radebe.

Addressing issues related to the Legal Practice Bill which was reintroduced in Parliament last week, the minister stated that the legal profession was an independent one that controlled itself.

"Our government has no intention of encroaching on the independence of the legal profession. If you read the Legal Practice Bill, nowhere is it suggested that we want to interfere with the legal profession," he stressed, speaking at The New Age/SABC breakfast in Sandton on Monday.

The department was concerned with ensuring that there was transformation in the legal profession and that consumers were protected.

"...we are entrusted to ensure that there are uniform norms and standards for all legal practitioners so that the legal profession can be able to play its role in the transformation of South African society," Radebe added.

Last week, Deputy Minister Andries Nel said the Legal Practice Bill was "a long time coming".

"It's a very, very important piece of legislation because it will be creating a unified framework for the governance of the legal profession. It's not abolishing the distinction between attorneys and advocates but it is putting them under a common regulatory framework," he said.

That regulatory framework would also enable the acceleration of the transformation of the profession by ensuring the implementation documents such as the legal services charter and would create a framework for the regulation of fees and enhance access to justice, Nel added.

It will also create a framework for the provision of pro bono services by practitioners.

Also at the briefing last week, Chief State Law Adviser Enver Daniels said under the Bill, law societies and councils as they are currently known would eventually disappear to be replaced with the Legal Practice Council.

"The Legal Practice Bill envisages the establishment of a national council that will then set up regional bodies. From the time the national council is established it will enter into negotiations with the existing law societies and bar councils ... to discuss the transfer of assets and staff," he added.

There will be a period of about 18 months for those discussions to be completed.