Law society summit discusses transformation

By Mokgethwa Ngoepe

Transformation of the legal profession, particularly with regards to discriminatory briefing patterns, became a subject of the day as the legal body discussed, at great length, the extent to which cases are allocated and dealt with by the state.

The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) feels that predominantly white male advocates tend to preside over most influential cases in South Africa and calls on government to assist in ensuring that transformation is taking place in this area. In an attempt to address this, LSSA recently hosted a summit in Kempton Park to discuss the briefing patterns for advocates.

The summit sought to find solutions relating to the transformation in the widely male dominated legal field. Based on the statistics, women are still far behind in the occupation of senior positions within the legal fraternity.

Advocate Dali Mpofu, in his capacity as Chairman of the Johannesburg Bar Council, highlighted the inequalities within the legal profession, previously dominated by the minority. “It has been a frustrating 16 years, and today, we are still talking of the same problem of transformation. Racism is also playing part in the process of race attitude,” said Advocate Mpofu.

Outgoing Director-General, Ms Nonkululeko Sindane, assured the legal fraternity that the department is working hard to ensure that there is transformation within the legal field.

“In terms of the departmental policies on transformation, the Office of the State Attorney’s key performance indicator is that 76% percentage of value of briefs be allocated to previously disadvantaged individuals,” she highlighted.

Ms Sindane further emphasised that the Office of the State Attorney is extensively committed to promote the equal distribution of briefs to previously disadvantaged, taking into account the qualification, skills and experience. “The transfer of skills between skilled private practitioners and those who are still at developmental stage is not only imperative, but also beneficial to the state and the country,” she indicated.

The director-general further revealed that government prioritises the transfer of skills, indicating that the previously disadvantaged groups will be given preference. This includes women in the legal field as women empowerment remains a specific focus area in order to redress the imbalances of the past.

Deputy Minister, Mr John Jeffery, shared the same sentiments, saying: “Although transformation will not be accomplished overnight, we are slowly but surely getting there. We see our statistics changing every year, we will only rest when we see women within this profession also being taken into consideration,” the deputy minister vowed.

The summit was attended by, among others, various presidents of law societies from different provinces. Special guests included Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and the Judge President of the North and South Gauteng High Court, Dunstan Mlambo.