Article by Durban attorney:
To ensure that access to legal services becomes a reality for South Africans and not just a fraction of its people, the legislature has passed the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (LPA). As a result of this Act the landscape of the entire legal profession in SA and the way lawyers do business is set to fundamentally change in the future.
The LPA was published in the Government Gazette in September 2014, but not all of its provisions were to become operational immediately. Certain provisions of the Act are to come into force at different dates. Parts 1 and 2 (section 96 to 109) of Chapter 10 came into effect on 1 February 2015. Chapter 2 of the LPA will come into effect on 1 February 2018, thereafter the remaining provisions will come into operation on a date still to be fixed by the President.
Both the attorneys and advocates profession, as well as the professional bodies of the law societies and bar councils are currently undergoing a major shake up. Those advocates who wish to receive instructions directly from members of the public will be allowed to provided they obtain a fidelity fund certificate and operate a trust account in the same way as attorneys do.
The LPA is required to provide a “legislative framework for the transformation and restructuring of the legal profession in line with constitutional imperatives so as to facilitate and enhance an independent legal profession that broadly reflects the diversity and demographics of the Republic”. The LPA requires that the existing Law Societies throughout the country, including the Law Society of South Africa and Bar Councils will cease to exist at a particular point in time. In its place will be a single Legal Practice Council and Provincial Council which will regulate the affairs of all legal practitioners. The South African Legal Practice Council is established as a body corporate, which will have full legal capacity and will exercise jurisdiction over all legal practitioners and candidate legal practitioners.
There will also be the establishment of a Legal Service Ombud.
One of the ways the Act seeks to address the issue of broadening access of justice is to put into place a mechanism to determine fees chargeable by legal practitioners for legal services rendered by them and that the fees are within the reach of its citizenry.
The reason for the enactment of the LPA can be found in its preamble. It says that the legal profession, which is regulated by different laws, which apply in different parts of the Republic and as a result, has become fragmented and divided. In addition the Act seeks to also ensure that the values underpinning the Constitution are embraced and that the rule of law is upheld.