Message from the CEO

Message from the CEO

IBA Report from the CEO

The Benefits and Risks of integrating legal professionals in the SADC region

CEO at the Legal Practitioners Fidelity Fund, Motlatsi Molefe, outlines the potential benefits and risks of economically integrating legal professionals in the SADC region.

Commonwealth Lawyers Association Conference GOA India
5 – 9 March 2023

The Commonwealth Lawyers Association bi-annual conference was held in Goa India and attended by a delegates from the commonwealth countries including South Africa. The Conference had 500 delegates from 52 countries in attendance The Fund together with other role players in the legal profession have always attended this conference which in many ways talks to matters of relevance to the South African legal environment.

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International Bar Conference
October 2022

The Legal Practitioners Fidelity Fund (LPFF) attended this conference represented by the chairperson Ms T. Kekana and the CEO Mr M B. Molefe. The South African Legal Practice Council (LPC) delegation attended the International Bar of association annual conference which was held in Miami, United States of America on 26 – 28 October 2022. The Law Society of South Africa was also represented practitioners and included in the delegation was the chair and vice chair of the GBC.

The conference was attended by regulators and key stakeholders in the legal and judicial sectors from countries around the world.

The purpose of the conference was to promote conversations and engagements between countries and their respective organisations that work in the legal sector regulation and associated fields, with a view of sharing information, learning from one another and adopting ideas that can enhance the work of the organisations within their countries and regions. The International Bar association also aims to promote the growth of the legal regulation sector and promote international collaborations.

Some to the topics addressed at the conference included challenges for the legal sector; starting on the pathway to success; an “ethical” lawyer in the 21st century; the role of data in legal services regulation and alternative licensing and how much regulation is just right, to name a few.

Conference Sessions

Chief Justice Mary Jane Theis from US welcomed delegates at the conference and spoke about the changing landscape of the legal profession, emphasising how services provided by legal professionals and the courts play a key role in building public trust in the legal systems of each country.

One of the ways recommended by the Chief Justice on building public trust was for legal professionals to always keep in mind that members of society who seek their services at a time of crisis are ordinarily not trained in the language of law, and at times when the outcome is not what is expected, there could be a perception of unfairness and a risk of non-compliance to orders or outcomes.

Challenges of the Legal Sector

A number of perspectives, from different regions were given; these range from macro issues such as the war in Ukraine to micro challenges such as dealing with education within a country or district.

Some of the issues highlighted were the economic crimes and the role of legal professionals in perpetuating the crimes – the case in point is the Ukraine/Russia conflict and the role that the legal practitioners play behind the scenes; the impact of regulation on the profession, especially on elements such as tuition fees and scholarships (affordability of studying at law schools); providing guidance and regulations to law firms and managing diversity in the profession.

New regulators continue to deal with country dynamics which may range from working to make the profession to protect the public and ensuring that there is access to the profession by broader society.

As the profession evolves, so do the opportunities.

The pandemic increased the need and pace of adaptation in the profession, the areas that highlighted adaptation were technology, i.e. connectivity and doing work online via Teams/ Zoom; changes in working patterns especially with the need for working from home measures and the economic impact (various shutdowns had an impact on provision of services). Another impact was isolation, which in a number of instances was a contributor to mental health challenges in the profession.

What should the regulatory paradigm for 21st century look like?

Thoughts shared were that one of the hallmarks of success for the legal profession is independence. Activities of the regulators focused on the conduct of the legal person and not necessarily their title, and alternative structures for provision of legal services.

The role of the regulator is to help build a profession, with a focus on integrity of conduct, diversification of the sector and improved accountability.

Some of the challenges in the South African context are that there is lack of clarity in terms of who sets the tariffs, no clarity on what happens when there are differences between political principals and the regulator, and proactively managing appointment of qualified legal practitioners (who may not necessarily be showing on the regulator’s database) versus the oversight of the regulator.

Oversight of the regulator when it comes to legal practitioner’s conduct (especially those holding official positions in state).

How much regulation is enough regulation?

Access to justice requires different solutions depending on jurisdiction. The profession needs to reflect on how they assess the impact and effect of services provided, measure the ability to close the access gaps, figure out where the needs are for legal services (mapping), build cultural competences to deal with a broad range of customers.

The various districts/countries have rules and regulations for protecting data. Generally, data is divided into personal and non-personal data.

The rules focus on how the data is acquired, kept safe, what the different uses of the data are, what the intended purpose for acquiring the data is, how reliable is the data being collected and whether or not there is some analysis that can give insights for tailoring of information or possible collaborations in the future.

Most of the players seem to have data about the legal practitioners and not about the consumers of legal services.

Some of the questions which need to be asked in the legal systems where data is concerned include:

Do we have data that informs us to the perceptions around legal practitioners or about the regulators on how they regulate the profession? 

Is the profession collecting data for the “stick” or consequence management, or can there be an intelligent use of data to proactively anticipate challenges and proactively manage situations?

The role of Artificial Intelligence and its future impacts on the legal profession. Some of the points that arose where AI is concerned were:

Where can AI play a role in the profession? An example given was on the compilation of court documents and possibly contracts.

What are the current and future legislation gaps of AI, legal profession and technology?

Anti-money laundering regulation

There is a need for all role players in the legal profession to understand why anti-money Laundering matters is not a victimless crime. Legal Professionals should guard against being involved and being implicated (directly and indirectly) in money laundering. Legal professionals should not treat anti-money laundering initiatives as simple ‘tick box’ exercises. From South Africa perspective it was clear that we were lagging behind and might run into problems of grey listing in the future.

The Legal profession should move beyond being defensive on the issue of money laundering

Cognitive decline and competence issues

In this session the discussion focused on proactive measures which need to be taken to assist with possible cognitive decline among legal professionals, are there wellness interventions available and is there a proactive way to identify issues

In the US market, there is an increasing expectation that the legal sector will introduce assessment to identify such cases. The sector needs to introduce early interventions and there needs to be individuals across society in courts dedicated to assisting with this challenge.

Click here to read the full report

Click here to read the full report