Government’s proposed compulsory community service for lawyers is a noble plan, but needs to be properly structured, especially for candidate attorneys entering the sector, says the Law Society of SA (LSSA).

The Citizen notes that the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development has invited comments on the legislation of the community service in terms of section 29 of the Legal Practice Act.

As reported previously, the gazetted regulation proposes that a candidate lawyer must, as part of their vocational training, do a yearly eight hours of community service at any institution approved by the Justice Minister.

Practising advocates and attorneys are required to do 40 hours a year.

LSSA spokesperson Shaun Hangone welcomed the proposal but added that such community service should not be confused with pro bono practice.

Pro bono is offering legal service for the community without remuneration, not for the government.’

According to Hangone, notes The Citizen report, the concerning issue is that junior aspiring lawyers have limited areas where free services can be rendered.

‘I think one such place to go to was the SA Human Rights Commission, so the first concern is, is community service equal to pro bono? The answer to that is a resounding no. In this instance, pro bono should not be a substitute for state service. There has to be a structured environment for candidate attorneys, whether they are asked to go help deal with the backlog at the Master’s Office or go to the High Court to assist with filing, then there’s a positive spin for it.’

The report notes the closing date for comment on the regulations is 20 June.

Full report in The Citizen