The Minister of Justice & Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, has published guidelines regarding the conferral of senior attorney and Senior Counsel honours for eligible legal practitioners.

Pretoria News report says the guidelines made it clear that regard must be given to the racial and gender composition of the legal fraternity in the country. The Minister said it is crucial to streamline and transform the Senior Counsel system.

This includes rectifying racial and gender biases that have resulted in the exclusion and marginalisation of previously disadvantaged practitioners from equal participation.

Additionally, efforts must be made to counteract the emerging trend of Senior Counsel honours becoming more focused on self-interest rather than their original purpose of contributing to the development of jurisprudence and the legal profession.

The guidelines were officially published by the Minister after receiving approval from President Cyril Ramaphosa, consulting with legal professionals and considering feedback from the Legal Practice Council.

Lamola said the evolution of the legal practice involves a constant reassessment of past injustices.

‘The colonial system of designating senior advocates as Senior Counsel – which was at times arbitrary and discriminatory – lacked a fair and just criteria. As a result, the status of Senior Counsel was often sought and granted without proper regard for transforming the legal profession,’ he said.

The Minister said there may be more suitable candidates in any given year that can be considered and that when deciding on the recommendations, due regard must be taken regarding the racial and gender composition and the demographics of the country.

‘Consideration will be given to the reality of race-based and gender-based bias or skewing of briefing patterns of instructions given to attorneys and briefing patterns of advocates,’ Lamola said.

Full Pretoria News report in The Star

See also full report in The Mercury