Just trust me, I'm a lawyer...

Despite a stonewalling legal establishment, the issue of attorney misconduct is hard to fudge. The reality is that South Africa's law societies place member interests above transparency, appear to discipline members inconsistently, and are indifferent to international benchmarks.

A few weeks back this column (Thought Leader) touched on the latitude granted to the professions to regulate themselves without state oversight. Strikingly, the only South African professionals to shroud this privileged process in secrecy are lawyers.If one wants to check on one's doctor's reputation, the Health Professions Council website details all disciplinary hearings against a practitioner's name, including the full charge sheet and sentence. But with attorneys there is simply no way of checking their vaunted professionalism on matters like failing to appear in court, not following client instructions, not responding to client correspondence, deliberate delays, financial mismanagement and overcharging.

Unlike, say, the United Kingdom where disciplinary rulings are searchable online by name of both practioner and firm, SA's law societies simply won't disclose the identity of disciplined attorneys. The exception is strikings from the roll, which openness has nothing to do with law society largesse but because a struck attorney's name is automatically a matter of High Court record.Professor Hugh Corder of the University of Cape Town's law faculty describes such secrecy as 'horrifying'. He says it flouts the Constitution, which governs the accountability of institutions that have 'public power or exercise a public function'.

Editor's Comment
Let’s stand against the menace of ‘CAT’

Methcathinone’s addictive grip is tightening, and its consequences are devastating. Lives are being ruined, families torn apart, and futures dashed by its destructive power. The drug’s allure knows no bounds, with various methods of ingestion making it accessible to users of all preferences.Whether it’s snorted, smoked, injected, or taken orally, the outcome is the same: a path of ruin and despair. It is time for action. The government,...

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