Rejection against new mandatory community service rule for lawyers in South Africa

The opposition Democratic Alliance says it strongly opposes the draft legal sector code that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet approved last week for publication.

The DA has warned that the current provisions are too burdensome and unnecessarily racialized.

“What the DA finds very troubling is the absurd pro bono requirement that companies earning between R3m and R15m must complete 200 hours of pro bono work per lawyer for poor, marginalized clients. and rural blacks,” said the DA’s Glynnis Breytenbach, who is a High Court barrister.

“The stipulation that pro bono work must be done for black clients is unnecessary because someone who is poor and in need of pro bono assistance will need such assistance regardless of their skin color.”

Other code requirements that the DA finds troubling are:

  • A company earning over R15 million will only need 500 hours of pro bono work per year per company;
  • Defenders earning more than R5 million will be required to volunteer 150 hours a year;

While pro bono legal work is important, these requirements are far above the current 24-hour-a-year requirement and will be too burdensome for the profession, Breytenbach said.

“These requirements are also absurd in that they weigh much more heavily on low-income businesses than on high-income businesses.

“If the government goes ahead and publishes it, the DA will formally submit our objections, and we will encourage other South Africans, particularly those in the legal profession, to do so as well.”

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Jill E. Washington