A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
JUSTICE AND CONSITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
09 May 2007
LEGAL AID BOARD BRIEFING ON STRATEGIC PLAN AND BUDGET 2006-09
Chairperson: Ms F Chohan-Khota (ANC)
Documents Handed Out:
Legal Aid Board (LAB) Strategic overview 2006-2009
LAB Annual report 2005/06 & 2006/07 presentation
LAB Annual report 2005/06 & 2006/07 (available at later www.legal-aid.co.za)
LAB Strategic PLan 2006-2009 [please email firstname.lastname@example.org]
LAB Executive Summary
LAB Executive Summary 10 April 2006: Part1 & Part2
Umlungisi: Children’s Unit
Umlungisi: Access to Justice Conference (available at www.legal-aid.co.za)
The Legal Aid Board gave an extensive presentation on its mandate, the work undertaken, its aims and objectives, training programmes and analysis of cases and financial situation. There was discussion of the possibility of undertaking more civil work, and the Committee was concerned that this was an area needing further discussion. The distinction was outlined between cases handled by the justice centres, Legal Aid Board and Judicare system. Salaries remained a problem, with many Board staff not being equated to National Prosecuting Authority staff, and there had been a need to introduce a further category of professionals to cater for those who wished to remain in practice rather than move to management levels. It had achieved an unqualified audit with no outstanding issues, and aimed to keep to this standard. Full financial details were given for the 2005/06 financial year, and a brief note of what would be reported upon in the 2006/07 year. The Board appreciated the increase in funding, that had allowed it to improve its court / attorney ratios, but warned that further funding would be needed to bring this up to the optimum levels, to allow for proper preparation for trial, and to handle other projects.
The Committee questioned at some length the quality of work produced by candidate attorneys and received an analysis of the type of training the Board gave, which seemed to be producing on the whole better trained individuals. Questions were also asked on minimum sentencing, the civil litigation process, the procedure for approval of legal aid, whether the Board would be able to give due attention to other matters in view of the high priority on criminal matters, whether it handled evictions and land reform. Further questions were asked around the Charter of Legal Services, the drafting process, the amendments needed to the Guide and the Act, experiences around bail and the relationship with the Police Service.
Judge Dunstan Mlambo, Chairperson, Legal Aid Board commented on some of the strategic objectives for the next three years. The Legal Aid Board (LAB) had a mandate derived from the Constitution and the Legal Aid Act. Other legislation also required it to provide legal aid. In deciding its strategies it needed to examine its past history.
Judge Mlambo outlined the external context and the internal context. There was a growth in the number of police and a refocus of policing which had resulted in an increase of arrests, which in turn increased the demand for LAB services. Although there was a general decline in crime there was an increase in the workload around serious crimes. The number of cases brought to court by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had doubled between 1999 and 2003. He acknowledged the overcrowding in prisons and the need to come up with a solution. 80% of prisoners in 7 prisons were awaiting trial. LAB expressed its displeasure with minimum sentencing as crimes were bunched in one group and given the same sentence, without the presiding officer being given the discretion, for which he was well trained, to look into the individual factors. The creation of new courts also had a direct impact because this created an expectation that LAB should serve these new courts as well, although there was no corresponding increase in the budget to meet this expectation.
There was an unequal sharing of resources in the justice system. In addition, LAB was often criticized that it sent lawyers who were not fully prepared, but, as already explained, many presiding officers required attendance by the LAB lawyers five days a week, leaving no time for preparation. An increase in the budget would allow an increase in the numbers of professional attorneys (PA) so as to enable them to focus on preparation of trials. In comparison with the NPA, LAB had far too few attorneys per court.
LAB participated in various justice initiatives including discussions in the case backlog task team, criminal justice review, and legal services charter. It was concerned that the Legal Aid Guide was last updated in 20002. It hoped the Legal Aid Act was being rewritten and had made submissions on this. It had also submitted two reports on legal aid in South Africa in the next two decades and civil legal aid. Both arose from the need to expand into civil legal aid. In the same vein it had a meeting with the Minister who requested documentation on the issue, which was submitted. LAB then requested follow up meetings and hoped that the committee was going to be party to the process.
Judge Mlambo highlighted that there was limited retention of staff, as experienced professionals were taken up by the corporate and large private sectors, where salary scales and conditions of service were much better. LAB would thus train up candidate attorneys (CA) but these would leave when qualified or experienced. To make matters worse Department of Justice (DOJ) had upgraded salaries in other structures, including the NPA, but the LAB was still waiting for an upgrade, Not surprisingly the LAB staff were unhappy.
There was tension between LAB and the other legal professional bodies dating back to when the justice centre model was established. Most law societies felt that the model was taking away work from their members. LAB, on the other hand, continued to give the societies an understanding as to why this was done. Presiding judicial officers found that LAB rather than Judicare lawyers had a higher standard of their work. LAB nonetheless co-operated well with some law societies.
Speaking of client and community factors, Judge Mlambo indicated that the high levels of poverty and unemployment created a highly fertile ground for crime syndicates, who preyed on displaced youth. There was shrinkage in donor funding, especially among the non-government organsations (NGOs) that fuelled the advice and legal community centres, because their own access to donor funds had lessened. There was a huge unmet demand in rural areas because of lack of accessibility.
Judge Mlambo did not dwell on internal environment factors impacting on LAB as these were clearly set out in the slides. However, he mentioned that the strengths included justice centres in the satellite provinces, although more could still be added. A major weakness was the lack of general legal advisory services in the form of paralegal capacity. The internal support system would be developed.
Strategic risks had been identified, including the quality of legal services, and the impact of the non- aligned salary scales. The Legal Services Charter was being drafted, but the part making reference to the Legal Aid Board had, in the first draft, reflected the pre-1999 situation. There was concern that the LAB might not be visible enough and a Communications Officer had thus been appointed. The Charter had failed to focus adequately on transformation of how best to provide legal services, and focused too much on how lawyers should protect themselves. LAB remained concerned what transformation processes were planned to make legal services accessible to the majority of South Africans. The Legal Aid Act was old, and had needed extensive amendment to try to bring it in line with the constitution, and should be completely re-drafted. The Legal Aid Guide might be rectified as LAB had recently appeared before the NCOP.
Mr Mlambo outlined three main strategies as the delivering of quality legal services and the promotion, protection and defence of the constitutional rights; developing and maintaining human capital to support the delivery of quality services; and the developing and maintaining institutional capacity. In crafting the strategies LAB had involved all the stake holders.
The Chairperson thanked the LAB for a very comprehensive report.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) asked about the progress in civil matters and the work being done, since this was still an unfunded mandate.
Judge Mlambo replied that State had chosen the legal aid board to respond to the need to provide civil legal aid, as it believed LAB was independent. However, there seemed to be mixed messages. The Director General for Justice made comments in a conference held last year to the effect that DOJ wwas not in favor of the LAB granting civil legal aid. It had been clear from previous discussions that there was indeed the need for civil legal aid. LAB met with the Minister who advised that there was need for extensive research first. In return LAB prepared a full document that gave reasons as to the need for civil legal aid. His view was that the need was there but the problem was how to proceed, as it seemed there was high prioritization of criminal matters. It was impossible for LAB to be on top of all criminal matters, but he was confident that the LAB response to such matters was quite good. LAB could not use much of their meagre budget to hand over civil matters to Judicare lawyers.
Prof Yousouf Vawda, Board Member, LAB, added that there was a misconception that civil legal aid was a creation of the LAB.
The Chairperson pointed out that they had neither refuted nor objected to this.
Prof Vawda said that not only the constitution but the Labour Act necessitated this. LAB believed it was not a question of whether it should provide Civil Legal Aid but on what terms it should do this. Civil legal aid could be rolled out as a proactive measure or there would be an increasing demand on the State to provide civil legal aid. He was of the opinion that it would be desirable to enter into the arena with terms acceptable to the LAB and to the State and be mindful of the inter-play of resources. International and national jurisprudence stated that it was not enough for the State to claim that it did not have adequate resources, but that it had a duty to make a plan.
Mr Swart asked LAB to explain further what it meant by developing the justice concept.
Ms Vidhu Vedalankar, CEO, LAB replied that LAB had documented initiatives concerned with restorative justice, noting that any actions taken must not be solely punitive but should also explore how to integrate the offender into society. Moreover, it was co-operating with other institutions and looking at diverse programmes. It would like to be more involved, but lacked capacity.
Ms S Camerer (DA) asked if LAB had a strategy to deal with the complaints, especially in relation to the unequal salaries.
Judge Mlambo replied that LAB gave increases in line with government increases, but in terms of the current readjustment it did not have the budget to match the NPA’s or DOJ’s salaries. He added that LAB did have business contingency plans in case of industrial action but this did not absolve anyone to address the problem at the root.
Ms Camerer asked LAB to expand on its views on minimum sentencing.
Judge Mlambo replied that he did not want to get into too much detail about this as LAB had made many submissions on the issue before the last extension of the legislation. However, in many cases the life sentences were not entirely appropriate to the specific circumstances surrounding the offender..
The Chairperson asked if he was saying the application of the legislation was undesirable or the legislation itself.
Judge Mlambo replied that that both applied – sometimes Supreme Court of Appeal would correct the application of the law. However, the legislation constrained the judicial officers to give a judgment irrespective of the mitigating circumstances.
The Chairperson replied that the might she remind them the life sentence had twice been proclaimed constitutional.
Judge Mlambo replied that he was aware of this.
The Chairperson informed him that he should send the Committee reports based on LAB’s personal practical experiences as to why minimum sentencing was wrong.
Judge Mlambo replied that he was aware that this sentencing was imposed in answer to the outcry on high levels of crime but he was of the opinion that it could be changed.
The Chairperson replied that the minimum sentencing was not necessarily imposed as a result of the increase in crime. This was one of the reasons, but there was also a need to find a uniform system to address the huge disparities in sentencing from different courts, particularly in view of the country’s history.
Ms C Johnson (ANC) asked the LAB what it would like to see in the Legal Services Charter.
Ms Vedalankar replied that LAB had made some suggestions. It was of the opinion that the Charter should focus more on access to justice rather than on transforming the professions.
The Chairperson asked if LAB had been part of the drafting team.
Ms Vedalankar replied that they were not part of the drafting team, but they had been currently formally invited.
Mr J Sibanyoni (ANC) asked how LAB related to programmes under the land reform.
Ms Johnson asked if LAB represented people who were faced with evictions or had issues around land reform.
Ms Vedalankar replied that at this stage eviction and land reform formed part of the civil matters LAB would deal with. Moreover, it was in partnership with NGOs that dealt with the delivery of legal services in land matters. It was in the process of finalising an agreement with the Land Claims Commission to represent people and the Commission would fund the project. It was still in the process of finalising the amount it would need to fund this new goal.
The Chairperson informed the LAB that the Committee would like a copy of the agreement.
Mr L Joubert (DA) asked what percentage of criminal cases were being handled by LAB, since there was a substantial difference in the number of cases handled by it and by the NPA.
Mr Brian Nair, National Operations Executive, LAB, replied that LAB would deal with about 60-75% of matters in the district courts. This percentage was higher still in regional courts, and in the high court was around 90-100%. Although a large number of the cases were subsequently withdrawn, this would often happen only after initial investment of time and resources. This resulted in high consumption of LAB’s legal services and even though this was not as high as the NPA, who sat through all the cases, it was sufficiently high that it was impossible for the PA from the Board to sit in court on a daily basis and still be expected to prepare adequately to run the trial. It had been appreciative of the increase in funding from last year, because this had helped LAB to get to a ratio of 1.25 PAs per court, although it still wished to attain the desired target of 1.5 PAs.
Mr Jourbert (DA) asked whether the statement that judicial officers preferred LAB PA’s was an opinion or fact.
Judge Mlambo replied that he knew this to be a fact.
but he was going to pass the question to Mr Mtati to respond.
Mr Thembile Mtati, Regional Operations Executive, LAB, added that on occasion Judicare lawyers had postponed matters, resulting in the presiding officers complaining that this created backlogs, and saying they would rather have the LAB internal team deal with the cases.
Mr Sibanyoni asked how long it took before a LAB practitioner could be accredited, and asked if a private practitioner had to be accredited before assisting with legal aid matters.
Mr Nair stated that LAB had an ongoing programme where it invited private practitioners to participate in the Judicare programme. Once application had been made, the process took a couple of days, and the practitioner would be added to the allocation list.
Judge Mlambo added that, based on his experience as a judge, many lawyers would be concerned to have a postponement approved at a certain time of day to get their fee for the day.
Mr Sibanyoni asked who decided on applications for legal aid.
Mr Nair replied that when a client applied for legal aid, depending on the circumstances, justice centre might take up the matter or refer it to a private practitioner. The screening process involved a number of reasons, including the possibility of conflict of interest.
Imam G Solomon (ANC) asked if there was a good working relationship with the South African Police Services to ensure the constitutional rights of the accused, considering that an arrested person first came into contact with the police.
Ms Vedalankar replied that it was important to have a good working relationship with the police. She added that LAB had attempted last financial year have PA’s on call when arrests were made and the person needed legal aid. This, however, turned out to be impossible because LAB had 58 centres and 1 500 lawyers compared to over 1 000 police stations. At a regional level some police objected to lawyers being present when the police were trying to get information from the arrested person. Currently LAB was working on establishing a new system through which the justice cluster system was connected by information technology, so that any arrest made would send a trigger to the LAB, who could then send a PA to go to the client. The budget for this system was an estimated R2 million a year..
The Chairperson asked about the LAB’s experience on bail applications.
Mr Nair replied that bail applications were a core part of the service included in every practitioner’s mandate and there were a certain percentage of cases LAB would close on bail, but there was not much that LAB could do about this.
The Chairperson said that resources were being used to locate accused who had been released on bail, instead of on investigation, because LAB’s verification system was not efficient and could record incorrect addresses.
Mr Nair gave the comparative analysis of the starting salaries of the CA’s at the entry level of the profession, which were around R50 000 a year. It was still attempting to reach alignment of salaries.
The Chairperson asked for a comparative analysis of these salaries, and added that there were issues around increments in salaries of magistrates that demanded a similar rise of the NPA and LAB salaries. The current raise in the salaries of magistrates, coupled with car allowances, meant that NPA staff were seeking magisterial posts. Although there was a need for revision, she was not suggesting that everyone should receive the same salary, but rather that there was a need for a broad discussion on how to reach some synergy. She would, however, encourage LAB to keep raising the issue.
The Chairperson asked LAB to explain more on career pathing.
Judge Mlambo replied that the LAB lawyers found themselves in a position where, if they wanted to earn more money, they had to move into managerial positions, and there were a limited number of those at LAB. Career pathing was a way to avoid penalising those who wanted to continue practice.
Imam Solomon remarked that LAB had a good motivation for the need to extend to civil legal aid. He then asked what it was currently doing on this particular issue and what it needed from the Committee.
Judge Mlambo replied that Ms Vedalankar would present statistics on what LAB had been doing but he noted that this was an ongoing unfunded mandate. Once the constraints were removed LAB would like to roll it out as a service.
The Chairperson commented that there were some very serious issues, such as the Legal Aid Guide, that needed to be dealt with in more detail and she hoped that further discussion could be held. The Committee were not averse to LAB undertaking civil legal aid, but was worried about the quality of the criminal work, as high priority was placed on it. There was need to have a further discussion as to why LAB should be at the forefront of giving civil legal aid. She was concerned by the fact that the Legal Aid Guide was taking a long time to be finalized, and was concerned that this issue had not been brought to the Committee’s attention earlier.
Legal Aid Board Financial Performance 2005/06
Ms Vedalankar informed the committee that her presentation focused on the performance of 2005/06 and also contained some information on the current financial year.The main focus area was legal service delivery.
The strategic plan informed the business plans and in turn LAB used these plans to implement their programmess. The first strategic priorities for 06/07 were in keeping with the LAB mandate which was to increase the access to legal services. The second important area was the quality of the work and LAB was now working on putting clients at the centre of delivery, improving stakeholder relations and increasing the profile of the LAB
Legal services were offered at all courts, but the outstanding issue was the ratio of PA’s per court. The number of new legal matters handled in the 2005/06 year had increased from 340 to 387 and these included matters handled by the justice centre system, Judicare matters and their co-operation partners. An increase in funding had meant an increase in capacity. The focus on the client continued and in the past financial year LAB had been proactively looking and addressing the needs of specific vulnerable groups. Last year it had focused on children. LAB had set up children’s units in their justice centres and consequently they increased the capacity of PAs that dealt with child issues. Client relationship management programs were constantly being reviewed to ensure effectiveness. Quality assurance and interventions and monitoring were continuing and there was a focus on a better prepared PA spending less time in court and more time preparing. Linked to this they now had a court observation system that actually monitored the course work and the case files of practitioners. The court observations were also a developmental and support intervention tool in that they also mentored and coached the practitioners. LAB received stakeholder quality feedback on an ongoing basis and had requested it in a structured form. Another priority aimed at improving quality was legal training. An independent auditor come in to give an external assessment and point out any areas requiring improvement, after which LAB would act on the recommendations.
Criminal courts coverage had been maintained on an annual basis. LAB was continuing with the precedent set on impact litigation, which was defined cases that involved large groups of people or pieces of legislation that required attention. Stakeholder forums were convened in all provinces and some stakeholders even attended conferences. This increased participation related to the bid to create improved functioning of the justice system. LAB had held public education campaigns and hosted their own events. This led to a better public awareness.
LAB participated in various justice cluster initiatives. They made submissions on the Legal Services Charter in respect to the transformation of the judiciary and had hoped that the draft team would have added a chapter on legal aid. It had participated in the criminal justice review team and the case backlog team. It noted that monies were allocated to the DOJ and the NPA but not transferred to legal aid. These additional focuses needed additional funding which should be given upfront.
There had been an increase in the satellite offices and the staff had increased to about 2 000. Of this number 76% were legal professionals, which had increased access to justice. The comparative statistics for total numbers of new matters, and the allocation across judicare and justice centre systems were tabled, and the relationship explained. If LAB practitioners were not recruited, these cases were submitted to Judicare and their co-operation partners. There was an increase in the number of matters handled by LAB, and although it had not managed to increase the number of civil cases because of lack of capacity, LAB still dealt with a number of cases. 63 000 matters were finalised. Co-operation partners were encouraged to make submissions to improve legal service delivery.
An analysis had shown a number of matters being withdrawn, and 23 acquittals. LAB was responsible for about 4.5% of postponements and NPA for 11%. Often there was no legal representation on first appearance, so that later dates would be given for trial. LAB dealt mostly with matters involving aggression (including robbery, murder and rape) at 44%, and economic matters (including theft and fraud) at 30%. Civil matters were tabled. “Other” matters listed did not fall into any of the categories mentioned.
In 2005/06 LAB had received an unqualified report from the Auditor General (AG), without any outstanding matters and aimed to maintain this unqualified report. It also tried to keep expenditure within 99.5% of the budget and concentrate on service delivery. The bulk of the budget went to the salaries of professionals but whenever LAB could make savings the money was allocated to Judicare. The Committee had previously expressed concern on the fixed asset management, which had been now sorted out. Sound supply chain management would include BEE monitoring. LAB also intended to maintain their sound creditor management practices so as to ensure that they would keep the services from Judicare. It was in the process of finalising the audit statement for 2007, which would be sent to the AG at the end of May. This indicated LAB had kept to expenditure of 99.9% of budget, and that the fixed asset management was reconciled through out the year. LAB also proactively had a capital replacement programme, which was a more improved management of fixed assets and replacements.
LAB’s preferred supplier databases were in line with black economic empowerment (BEE) principles and it had not experienced any backlogs. The Medium Term Expenditure Frameworks (MTEF) allocations showed an increase attributable to the increase in the cost of living. In 2006/07 LAB was given R35 million in addition to the cost of living increase to their baseline. The R10 million for children had been used for PAs who would be in charge of child matters and the 2007/08 financial budgets had included an additional R 50 million for additional projects. This would cover the increase in the number of PAs at regional courts, strengthening capacity, increasing the number of satellite offices and the senior litigation capacity. The senior litigation was in addition to PA’s. LAB aimed to make sure that practitioners who wanted to remain in practice at LAB would not have to move into managerial positions to secure a better salary.
The MTEF budget was tabled, and she explained that the provisional rollover from 2005/06 and 2006/07 did not represent funds unspent, but were set aside to pay the Judicare lawyers. LAB had a contractual agreement with Judicare and needed adequate funds to pay them.
Ms Vedalankar noted that LAB was in the business of delivering services, so their core assets were lawyers, and people development strategy was vital. Legal training programs were fully functional. The HIV/AIDS management structures were in place. Much effort had been put into a cohesive culture. There was a large turnover of candidate attorneys (CAs). Nevertheless, LAB was the largest provider of access to the profession and time spent training the CAs was for the good of the country. LAB had decided to decrease the number of CAs. If it decided to increase them again this would impact positively on their work. The succession planning and competency based leadership were on track. The knowledge management training documented and put the information acquired in a structured system. The performance based scheme was aligned to the business plan and every employee had a performance contract reviewed on a yearly basis. Governance was important to them and there was a functional board. Board member training was continuing and the audit team was fully functional. Strategic and operational risks had been identified and a business continuity plan revised. Manenburg justice centre was burnt down and no hard copies could be recovered, but the backup system meant LAB was again fully operational within days. The IT disaster recovery plan was being tested on a yearly basis and training models were in place to increase compute literacy.
Challenges included provision of access to the court system, continued improvement of the quality of work, increasing the ratio of PAs per court and remuneration of the PA’s.
Mr Jourbert asked about the means test. In its current formulation he believed that many needy peple were excluded. Some accused allegedly pleaded guilty simply because they did not have the funds for a protracted trial. He wondered if this were the case, then the means test might fall foul of the constitution as being substantially unjust?
Ms Vedalankar replied that when dealing with the means test LAB looked at the income of the client and the ability of the client to afford the entire case. If the expected length of trial was so long that a person who would normally not fit the means test was unable to pay, LAB could contribute to the costs. In addition it was working on a new system for the ‘nearly poor’. This was the group between those who could afford trial and those who were too poor to afford a trial. There were a lot of administrative issues involved. On the issue of constitutional challenge, the LAB had obtained an advocate’s opinion that clarified and unpacked the necessities of substantive justice. LAB would have to have set limits, and look at whether the costs of the matter could be obtained. This opinion could be made available. The question was where the cut off point should be. Creative ways had to be found to address this concern, as also the complaints from practitioners that their work was being poached.
Ms Johnson asked for an indication of the CA workload.
Mr Nair replied that 60% was done by the CAs in the district courts.
Mr Sibanyoni asked whether the past problems with settling of practitioners’ fee had been overcome.
Ms Vedalankar replied that she was happy to inform the committee that in this financial year LAB had no such delays. In a few instances LAB went over the 30 days expected payment period, but this was when they were awaiting information.
Ms Johnson asked if LAB experienced problems with CAs not being able to undertake practical work when they came out of law school.
Mr Sibanyoni asked how LAB trained CA’s.
The Chairperson asked if lack of training had affected the quality of the LAB work. She also asked how the quality of service was measured; whether through the acquittal rate, or average experience or qualification.
Mr Nair replied that LAB recruited CAs from law schools or practical training schools. Before the CAs were allowed in court they underwent a rigorous minimum of six weeks’ training, where they learnt court procedure and other matters. The CA’s were first deployed to the reception courts before they could go to the trial courts. They also had a checklist programme to be completed, and extensive programmes to ensure readiness for court. LAB had also undertaken a study of the curriculum that did cover all the aspects the CA needed to be ready for court. There was constant reference to the checklist to ensure that all the work had been done. LAB was particularly careful about training because law societies were particular about the quality of work. They also exposed the CAs to some civil work and had to admit that the quality of work was much better than that from CAs who were trained elsewhere. A mentor development programme provided a supervisor for three CAs per justice centre and discussed their files in detail. Consultation with the client was not allowed on the day of the trial. Monitoring measures monitored the quality of the work and a quality assurance system ensured consultation and inspection of the files. Supervisors went into court with the CAs and this was part of the scoring process. The assessments included self-assessment by the CA, quarterly supervision where files were inspected, monitoring interventions. Because LAB received so few complaints it really took seriously any complaints lodged. Overall workload was at about 65%.
Ms Wilma Lambley, Regional Operations Executive, LAB, added that a client satisfaction programme evaluated the work of the practitioner on a quarterly basis.
The Chairperson remarked that the NPA made a calculation of their conviction rate, but LAB did not make any presentation even on its acquittal rate. The Committee, however, appreciated that LAB did not deal with all criminal cases. It had also failed to mention outcomes of the matters dealt with by Judicare and this would have made it easier for the Committee to look at the whole picture holistically. She added that LAB should define for the Committee what it needed to look at when assessing quality.
Mr Joubert added that what would also be helpful in the outcomes analysis would have been an inclusion of the cases in which there was a plea of guilty, and plea bargains.
Mr Jan Maree, Board Member added that he represented the Law Society of South Africa on the Board, and noted that their investigations had shown the quality of work produced by LAB-trained CAs was much higher.
The Chairperson remarked that the Committee was not disputing that LAB were a good training ground, but simply that many CAs were not properly prepared for court work.
Mr Mlambo added that this was true and the sad part was that the black students were most. Many students in the Eastern Cape were failing year after year in their oral exams. Many pupils who did pupilage straight out of law school also failed at their first sitting of the bar exams, although those who had worked in legal offices first and then written the bar exam normally passed. There were disparities in experience
The Chairperson suggested that if the problem was practical then they should maybe go back to the old way of law schools that gave at least students about eight months of practical exposure, although she was aware that there was reluctance to do this.
Mr Mlambo remarked that at those universities where there were functional law clinics the students fared much better.
The Chairperson remarked that there should be a sense of responsibility, and that for this to be addressed there must be a combined effort, possibly the introduction of practical legal training and perhaps the option of community service.
Mr Vawda added that the professionals and the law schools were currently engaged in meetings to try and solve this dilemma. He said that some schools had increased the number of practical courses in the syllabus, for example law clinics, but these still remained in the minority.
The meeting was adjourned.
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