As we wrap up 2015, this is the opportune time to take stock of the year that has past and look at issues, topics and events that were at the forefront of the legal profession. Without a doubt, the enactment and partial implementation of the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (LPA), in September 2014, has been one of the most important events for practitioners in 2015. The LPA was once again a prevalent topic at the annual general meetings (AGM) of the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society (KZNLS), Cape Law Society (CLS), Black Lawyers Association (BLA) and the Law Society of the Northern Provinces (see AGM news section in this issue).
The KwaZulu-Natal Law Society held its annual general meeting (AGM) on 16 October in Durban. The keynote address was delivered by nine times Comrades Marathon winner, Bruce Fordyce. Opening his addressed, Mr Fordyce said that society works because people put in hard work, long hours and dedication. He equated running a marathon with running a law firm by saying that firms compete in the same space with those that have the same genetics to work hard. 'You have to work twice as hard to beat the other law firms. Running Comrades is a tough sport that takes a lot of hours. I would not have won, if it was not for the support of my team. Sometimes I play the role of a leader, and at times I am a member of a team. Rely on your team to get you to the finish line. Being a leader is hard, people are envious of your success, the money you make, the car you drive, but they do not see what comes with it. You have to deliver and produce results. The key thing with success is to persevere, even when everyone else says it cannot be done. I never gave up even though it looked like I should. Lastly, remember you do not always have to be number one to win,' he said.
The Black Lawyers Association (BLA) held a two day annual general meeting (AGM) and conference from 23 - 24 October in Johannesburg. Issues discussed at the elective 38th conference included, transformation, briefing patterns and the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (LPA).
Justice Minister, advocate Michael Masutha, was the keynote speaker at the Cape Law Society annual general meeting (AGM) in Kimberley on 30 October, and he deviated from his written address to deal with the debate around skewed briefing patterns that had dominated the media during the month (see also LSSA news of this issue). He noted: 'Going forward, when I appear as litigant in court proceedings, I shall be represented by black female lawyers who are available and capable of doing so.' He added: 'I believe that white females are still experiencing gender stereotypes and prejudices that marginalise them, and significant social exclusion in various fields of human endeavour, including in this profession. We need to address the challenge of discrimination as it presents itself, whether that be race or gender.'
Attorneys William Booth and Egon Oswald, as well as attorney and member of the African National Congress (ANC) Legal Research Group, Krish Naidoo, debated the thorny issue of South Africa's position vis-à-vis the International Criminal Court (ICC) and our country's commitments made in terms of the Rome Statute and its domestication through the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act 27 of 2002, particularly as these relate to the debacle earlier this year with the presence of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir for the African Union (AU) Summit in Johannesburg. The session was facilitated by Cape Law Society (CLS) president, Ashraf Mahomed.
Krish Naidoo gave the background relating to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the non-arrest of President Al-Bashir and the issue of immunity :
South Africa signed and ratified the Rome Statute in July 1998 and subsequently domesticated the obligations in the Rome Statute into South African law by passing the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act 27 of 2002.
The Law Society of the Northern Provinces (LSNP) held its annual general meeting (AGM) on 31 October at Sun City. Speakers at the conference included Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng; Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery and Judge Thokozile Masipa of the Gauteng Local division of the High Court.
ProBono.Org and the Law Society of the Northern Provinces (LSNP) joint office in Pretoria attended the annual general meeting (AGM) of the LSNP at Sun City on 31 October. The office is located strategically to expand pro bono services to Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga.
The University of Pretoria's (UP) department of taxation held a discussion on the office of the Tax Ombud titled 'assessing the 2014/2015 annual report to Parliament'. This discussion formed part of the University of Pretoria's Economic Management Sciences Talk Series. The discussion took place in Pretoria on 13 October. Speakers at the discussion included the Tax Ombud, Judge Bernard Ngoepe; Chief Executive Officer : Office of the Tax Ombud, Eric Mkhawane; Executive Indirect Taxes : South African Revenue Services (Sars), Narcizio Makwakwa; Director of the African Tax Institute : University of Pretoria, Professor Riël Franzsen; and Tax Executive : ENSafrica, Dr Beric Croome.
On 14 and 15 October the Lawyers as peacemakers conference took place at Unisa main campus in Pretoria. The purpose of the conference was to facilitate knowledge exchange on integrative law and to allow those working towards developing this system to network with like-minded attorneys.
The National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL) Gauteng Branch held a dialogue session and panel discussion on gender transformation within the legal profession at the offices of Webber Wentzel on 24 October.
The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) announced last month that it, together with the Black Lawyers Association (BLA) and the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL), would call a national summit early in 2016, together with other stakeholders who are concerned about the negative impact of current briefing patterns by the state and corporate sectors, on the future of the profession. The summit will focus on identifying concrete solutions towards correcting this problem decisively.
By now it is surely common knowledge among South African practitioners that the majority of professional indemnity (PI) claims arise out of two areas of practice - Road Accident Fund claims and conveyancing matters. What is it about these two areas of law that lends itself to such claims? When we scratch beneath the surface and examine what the majority of these matters have in common, the single most frequent answer is that they are dealt with by staff who have no formal legal qualification - or if they are legally qualified, then they have little experience in practice.
In light of the recent Davis Tax Committee's first interim report on estate duty and the Draft Taxation Laws Amendment Bill 2015, the proposed amendments to the taxation of trusts seem inevitable. This article discusses some of the ways in which one can ensure that the administrative affairs of a trust are always in order, ensuring proper compliance with both trust - and tax laws.
When making use of Internet-based technologies in legal practice, lawyers should exercise due diligence before utilising a third-party service provider for purposes of storing or processing confidential information off site. In addition, a written agreement should be concluded that requires the service provider to establish and maintain measures that ensure the security of any personal information computing service providers, including web-based e-mail service providers. Cloud computing offers flexible, affordable technologies that directly addresses a company's objectives and goals by providing required functionality, reducing overhead expenditure and increasing mobility and convenience.