A proposal to remove the need for a warrant for one to provide ‘most’ legal services will be detrimental to the public since it will remove safeguards ensuring the integrity of lawyers plying the trade, the Chamber of Advocates has warned.
It also questioned why the government was in such a rush to implement the changes, adding that it was exploring all possible measures if the government continued to refuse to withdraw the Bill.
The chamber was reacting to proposed legal changes that will, among other things, remove the need for a warrant for one to provide most legal services, limiting the need for a warrant to court.
“An advocate’s warrant is not there to protect us as advocates, but rather to protect the public from persons who falsely hold themselves out and give the impression that they are advocates, without having satisfied the necessary prerequisites to be awarded a warrant,” chamber president Louis Degabriele told members during a meeting attended by over 200 lawyers.
Rather, Degabriele said, the warrant was the assurance given by the State itself to the public, that it can trust and put confidence in an advocate.
He said this went beyond the person having reached minimum levels of competence to be able to dispense legal advice to them, and included the fact that in order to be awarded a warrant, that person must have shown themselves to be worthy of it.
Above all, the public needed to know that a lawyer they were engaging, risked losing their warrant, and therefore their right to practice, should they breach the profession’s code of conduct.
The chamber said it was “surreal that in 2021”, and after 12 years of efforts to strengthen the profession’s regulatory framework, that government was now proposing doing away with the warrant for most legal services.
Furthermore, the chamber said that what was more “baffling” was the fact that through this latest Bill tabled in Parliament, the government was also undoing legal changes it had implemented only weeks ago.
The removed provisions include the statutory recognition of the Chamber of Advocates.
“Members also asked what was motivating the changes being proposed and what could be deemed so urgent for this Bill to be passed in such a short time,” the chamber said.
“Unfortunately, these were the questions that the Chamber’s Council had already sought clarification on, but so far none of them have been answered. One can therefore only speculate as to why the changes, and even more so, why the urgency.”
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