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Law society raises bar for newly qualified advocates

by Staff reporter
31 Dec 2018 at 17:54hrs | Views
THE Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) has started enforcing regulations to ensure that all lawyers undergo compulsory pupilage before practising on their own, with the bar being raised for one to practise as an advocate.
The LSZ also quashed reports that some prominent advocates such as Nelson Chamisa and Thabani Mpofu would be stripped of their titles under the new requirement.

According to the new regulations, all graduate lawyers must undergo mandatory post-graduate experience, which is known as pupilage, under a practising lawyer or law firm before they are issued with a practising certificate (PC) or recognised as advocates. There were some media reports that development could affect prominent lawyers who are now advocates but did not undergo pupilage.

In a circular issued last week, LSZ executive secretary Mr Edward Mapara said the developments are in line with the law.

"Members are hereby reminded that post registration compulsory pupilage is a legal requirement put in place through SI 137 OF 1999 and which was brought into effect by GN45/2013. For pupilage to be acceptable it has to be undertaken under an approved principal. One has to attend seminars /courses offered by Council for Legal Education or by the law society with the permission of the Council for Legal Education. One has to write and pass exams offered by Council for Legal Education or the Law Society as the case maybe," said Mr Mapara in the circular.

He said those who choose to be advocates without having completed their pupilage as required by law will not be issued with practising certificates.

"The period spent under advocates will not be considered in the reckoning years of pupilage. Secondment of pupils to the Chambers by law firms has also been stopped," said Mr Mapara.

In an interview, LSZ president Mr Misheck Hogwe said the new requirement was meant to improve the standards of the profession.

"What council did was to simply say going forward we have to make sure that all lawyers undergo compulsory pupilage in terms of the law. That position is not targeted at any particular lawyer. It's a statutory requirement which we are simply enforcing in the interest of standards in the profession. In other words when a law graduate joins the profession, before they can become a principal or entitled to practise on their own they need to undergo compulsory pupilage," said Mr Hogwe.

He said all law graduates must undergo the pupilage even as they choose to specialise to become advocates.

"Practising as an advocate is some form of specialisation and they are to a larger extent litigation lawyers. So for one to decide to specialise they have to go through the compulsory pupilage first then they can decide whatever they want to do whether they want to operate as advocates or anything else but that will be after completing compulsory pupilage," he said.

"There is a story that I've seen on social media which is very mischievous. No comment was sought from us and the Law Society council has not made any resolution that it restricts Advocate Thabani Mpofu and Hashiti of their advocacy. That is not going to happen and council has never intended to do that in the first place," he said.

"If we wanted to deal with Chamisa, Hashiti and Mpofu we could not have sent a circular, we could have dealt with them direct. That circular has no name that is somebody that is trying to be overly mischievous."

Mr Hogwe said practising advocates will not be affected as the law does not apply in retrospect. He said in the first place the LSZ should have made sure that at the beginning those advocates went through pupilage first.

"We have lawyers who went straight to the chambers and the law society issued them with practising certificates and they are practising. We cannot then turn around and say because you did not undergo compulsory pupilage we are stripping you of your right to practise as an advocate. That is untenable and that was never the position of the law society," he said.

"The fact that we did not make sure cannot be blamed on the advocates themselves."

Source - chronicle