We, the undersigned Presidents of the Law Societies of the Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Provinces, acting in the public interest, commit ourselves to a clean, ethical and responsive legal profession, and will do all that is necessary in the interest of public and clients.
We understand that while much has already been done to achieve this, more needs to be done to ensure effective access to a fair legal process, particularly in regard to the investigation of complaints by members of the public, court officials and the legal fraternity in a fair, independent and impartial manner.
Recently, there have been numerous disturbing media reports regarding the unprofessional and/or unethical conduct of certain members of the law societies. We have noted these reports and assure the public and the media that these cases are being dealt with in the appropriate manner. The cases are complex and investigations are at a sensitive stage where the law societies may not be at liberty to readily share information in response to media queries. This simply means that in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation and ensure the protection of the rights of all concerned, we may be constrained to comment in the media at that particular time.
However, it must be emphasized that we are committed to ensuring a transparent and accountable legal profession and will provide information where this is appropriate and in the public interest.
The law societies perform regulatory functions in nature, which include taking disciplinary steps against their members that are found to be in breach of the Attorneys Act and Rules. No member of the legal profession is beyond the law societies reach or influence. The investigations are conducted strictly in accordance with the Rules that govern the law societies and may result in action being taken against members.
It must be noted that the consequences of these interventions are very serious, and therefore the law societies are obligated to ensure that the investigation process is fair to all concerned. In many cases the investigation takes longer to be concluded than is expected. This may happen, for instance, when the outcome of separate civil or criminal court proceedings is required so as to ensure that complaints are dealt with holistically.
Members of the public are encouraged, if they have complaints against members of any of the law societies, to contact the relevant provincial law society where that member is practising and they will be given information and guided on the process to be followed. [Contact details below]
Ashraf Mahomed, President, Cape Law Society
Lunga Peter, President, Kwazulu-Natal Law Society
Deirdré Milton, President, Law Society of The Free State
Anthony Millar, President, Law Society of The Northern Provinces
The four statutory law societies are the regulatory bodies for attorney in South Africa in terms of the Attorneys Act, 1979.