The beginning of 2016 saw the racial debate being resuscitated by several social media posts. This highlighted the importance of being mindful when posting on social media, the need for legislation that will appropriately deal with such and the fact that one cannot be protected under the guise of freedom of speech for hate speech.
The Free State Law Society (FSLS) held its annual general meeting (AGM) at the Windmill Sun Casino in Bloemfontein.Judge President of the Free State Division, Mahube Molemela, was the guest speaker at the gala dinner held on 29 October 2015. Judge Molemela said that the focus of her speech was divided into three parts, namely -
a brief history of the Free State Division, juxtaposing the past with the present;
enumerating some of the challenges faced by the legal fraternity; and
spelling out the role that the attorneys profession plays in offering solutions.
The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) in conjunction with the International Bar Association (IBA) held a symposium on16 November 2015 in Johannesburg. The purpose of the symposium was for young lawyers to engage with international and local speakers on the new frontiers of legal ethics and their relevance in practice to social media, globalisation and the new business of law. In his welcome address, Co-chairperson of the LSSA, Richard Scott, noted that the legal profession is expected to hold high standards of conduct when dealing with their clients especially because the profession deals with highly confidential information. 'Attorneys are expected to carry out instructions with due diligence and integrity. This is a duty we owe both our clients and the courts. We should always remain constant and ensure that we maintain high standards of ethical conduct,' he added.
Attorney and LSSA representative to the IBA Council, Tshepo Shabangu, remarked that this was the opportune time to have such a discussion in South Africa as it is no longer 'business as usual'. She said that one of the reasons for this was the rapid speed of globalisation and the effect social media has had on society. 'Attorneys need to adapt but be cautious of the ethical considerations surrounding social media. ... Social media can be used to advance business but this should be done in an ethical manner,' she said.
The School for Legal Practice: Free State marked the year end with a celebratory breakfast at the end of 2015. In addition to the school's instructors, the function was attended by members of the Board of Control, as well as the Chief Executive Officer of the Free State Law Society. In past years the director, Willem Spangenberg, used the year-end function to reflect over the achievements of the year; express his appreciation of the work done by the staff; and invite suggestions about how the service of the law school could be improved.
In September last year Judge Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane, the Gauteng Local Division High Court Library Committee Chairperson, welcomed guests to the refurbished Gauteng Local Division High Court Library. Among the guests were Judge President of both the South and North Gauteng Division of the High Court, Dunstan Mlambo; Deputy Judge President of the South Gauteng High Court, Phineas Mojapelo; and Deputy Judge President of the North Gauteng Division of the High Court, Aubrey Ledwaba.
Two leaders in the legal fraternity were conferred the Rule of Law Champion Award by Lexis Nexis late last year. The recipients of the award were Judge Dennis Davis and Chief Executive Officer of the Law Society of South Africa and Director: Legal Education and Development, Nic Swart.
Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) Co-chairpersons, Busani Mabunda and Richard Scott, joined a number of other observers at the Maseru High Court on 2December 2015, in solidarity with Lesotho practitioners who had reported threats and harassment against themselves and their clients, being Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) soldiers who were alleged to have mutinied earlier in 2015. The LSSA was informed by the Law Society of Lesotho that defence lawyers had been experiencing threats to themselves and their families, court orders had been ignored and judges intimidated. Lawyers had also been denied access to their clients.
The Law Society of South Africa's (LSSA's) popular Significant Leadership for Women Lawyers programme will continue developing a network of strong, leading women in the legal profession. The programme will continue in 2016, and due to demand, the LSSA is also considering expanding the programme to KwaZulu-Natal. The Significant Leadership for Women Lawyers programme is aimed at equipping and empowering women attorneys with an understanding of key concepts in order to consider taking leadership positions in the legal profession. The LSSA's aim is to do its part to increase the number of female attorneys in leadership and decision-making positions.
The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) has been made aware of a scam in December 2015 in which a caller, 'Antony', purports to be from the LSSA and to have deposited funds incorrectly into the attorneys' firm bank account, and then requests a refund.
The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) will shortly launch its observer mission for the 2016 local government elections. Attorneys are invited to join the LSSA election observer team. Online registration - also for the training - is available on the LSSA website at www.LSSA.org.za (under 'Our initiatives').
The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) recognises the important role one-on-one mentoring plays in underrepresented groups in the profession and its Legal Education and Development (LEAD) division manages a 'Mentors in Legal Practice' programme to recruit and match mentee to mentor attorneys. Due to South Africa's ever-changing legal landscape, mentors are viewed not only as a source of skills transfer but also as a source of motivation and career development in new areas of practice within the profession. The LSSA foresees its mentorship programme as being a key mechanism to transfer professional skills and values in the future dispensation.
Many articles have been written, both nationally and internationally, about the changing legal landscape facing lawyers and their professions. The common theme throughout these articles is that the business model of traditional law firms has already changed and will continue to change in the future. It is important to note the law itself is not becoming less relevant but rather there is an urgent need for better and cheaper legal services that can keep pace with the demands of a rapidly globalising world
The magistrates' courts are currently over-flowing with cases. Various disputes are brought before the courts on a daily basis. Attempts to get a trial date or a date on the roll can leave you waiting months before your matter is heard. In light of the above, the legislature has looked into ways in which we can reduce the amount of cases that go to trial, in essence, alternative dispute resolution. In December 2014, ch 2 of the magistrates' courts rules came into operation providing an alternative to formal litigation, namely voluntary mediation in selected magistrates' courts. Mediation is the process whereby a third party, namely a mediator, assists the parties in identifying issues, clarifying priorities, exploring areas of compromise and generating options in an attempt to resolve the dispute. This mediation process applies to parties in both actual and potential litigation. The main objectives of this mediation process is to facilitate discussions between the parties and to preserve the relationships between the parties that may becomes trained or destroyed through the adversarial nature of litigation.
Despite the provisions of s 162(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 (the CPA), supported by precedents of decided cases, the practice of allowing court interpreters to administer the oath in criminal proceeding still continues, especially in remote areas. This often occurs when the presiding judicial officer is not familiar with the language that is commonly used at that particular district where he or she presides, thereby allowing witnesses to be sworn in by interpreters.