Prominent law firm, Collins Newman and Co. and its owner Parks Tafa have completed a hat-trick of triumphs over the Law Society, as the highest court in the land, closed the matter for good.
The Court of Appeal once again affirmed that the Law Society’s decision of 2019 to refuse Collins Newman & Co, Parks Tafa, and several of the firm’s lawyers with practising certificates was not based on the law.
Tafa first triumphed over The Law Society when he launched an urgent application against the society’s actions to strike his firm and lawyers from the roll in 2019 and succeeded. The ruling would later be confirmed by the High Court, but The Law Society took the matter on appeal, where Tafa, for the third time, emerged tops and further changed the way The Law Society had been traditionally going about its business in removing practitioners from the roll. The victories are a game-changer that things will never be the same.
A little background to the saga. Back in 2018, Parks Tafa approached The Law Society to let them know that his firm had encountered ICT-related problems when they were migrating from one law firm accounting management software to a new one, resulting in considerable loss of data, an explanation that had been backed by the auditing firm for that year.
The situation meant that Tafa’s firm would need more time than usual to attend to the software’s teething problems, and complete the law firm’s audit as it is the requirement by law and precondition to get practising certificates for its law firm’s lawyers, a process they completed successfully in April 2019.
Upon receiving this update from Tafa’s law firm, however, The Law Society moved swiftly to strike the multi-million pula law firm and its lawyers, including its prominent face, Tafa, from practice, a decision that sent shockwaves in the local and international arena, before Tafa approached the court and reversed the society’s actions.
It is this decision to bar the 42-year-old law firm and its lawyers from practice based on the software malfunctions of 2018 that resurfaced once again at the Appeals Court, where a three-judge panel of Justices Lesetedi, Sighn Walia and Dambe presided.
In the end, Tafa’s tussle with The Law Society also means the society will no longer take lawyers and law firms by surprise when they decide to remove them from the roll. The Court of Appeal emphasised that lawyers are officers of the court, and only the court can direct for their removal and not the registrar, except where a lawyer requests to be removed.
Like the High Court previously ruled, the Court of Appeal also buttressed that the registrar and master can only appoint a curator to manage the affairs of the law firm, under extreme circumstances such as the death of the lawyer, mental incapacitation, to name a few. None of those applied to Parks Tafa’s law firm.
In the case of Tafa, Collins Newman & Co and its lawyers, The Law Society had simply approached the Registrar and Master of the High Court to remove them from the roll, without the knowledge or representation of the affected entities, and even went further to appoint a curator to audit the trust account and manage the company, something that the Court of Appeal has since found that it falls outside the powers of the registrar whose duties are merely administrative.