On 6 December a good crowd of attorneys, advocates and mediators gathered at our offices to socialise and give us feedback on their experiences staffing our legal clinics and help desks and taking on our clients’ cases. We are grateful for this feedback and also for the good work of all our partners in 2018. We are proud to report that with your help we have assisted over 10,000 needy people this year. We wish every one of you a restful and happy festive season.
Once again, on 6 September we celebrated the extraordinary work being undertaken by lawyers, the media, the NGO sector, students and others in promoting human rights and the interests of the poor and marginalised.
Not only did this third award ceremony mark great achievements, but it marked our 10th anniversary. And anniversaries are significant. Our 10th anniversary coincides with the 60th anniversary of the women’s march, the 40th anniversary of June 16 and the 20th anniversary of the Constitution. These are all significant events and we are proud to be able to place amongst them ourselves and the attorneys, advocates and others who do such important work.
This year’s guest speaker was Dali Mpofu SC, Vice-Chairperson of the Johannesburg Bar Council. He mentioned the new Legal Practice Act presently being implemented, where pro bono work is being addressed in the category of community service. Only a small percentage of South Africans can afford even the most basic legal services and without such services the values in our Constitution of equality, the rule of law and the restoration of human dignity cannot be realised. He added that if the profession gets the exercise right, it would go a very long way in addressing the present frustration experienced by the poor and economically disadvantaged, who are mostly black people, women and other economically vulnerable groups.
He also stressed the importance of all legal practitioners doing pro bono work and congratulated those who had been nominated as finalists. It was very pleasing to see a marked increase in the participation of small law firms in the awards this year.
Six independent judges chose the finalists and winners in each category:
- Alice Brown, a human rights activist
- Professor Jonathan Klaaren, Professor of Law at the Wits Law School
- Clive Ramathibela-Smith, well known radio personality and businessman
- Nomboniso Nangu, Director of the National Association for the Development of Community Advice Offices (NADCAO)
- Nic Swart, CEO of the LSSA and LEAD
- Jonathan Berger, an advocate of the High Court and a member of the Johannesburg Bar