LAW FOR ALL: Commitment to Transformation and Diversity in South Africa

It’s not very often that we take the time to truly celebrate our unique country; with its incredible diversity and rich cultural history, South Africa is, undoubtedly, one of a kind. We should also not underestimate the importance of being surrounded by people who come from different backgrounds, as it gives us all an opportunity to open our minds and embrace any differences.

And this is particularly vital during September, when South African celebrates Heritage Month, which ultimately culminates in Heritage Day on 24 September. As former President Nelson Mandela said in a 1996 speech: “When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.”

Reflecting on the past is a very important exercise: not only doesn’t it place the rights and liberties we enjoy today into perspective, but it should also inspire us to better in the present in order to empower others in the future.

LAW FOR ALL: Diverse and Dedicated

Since 1993, LAW FOR ALL has worked tirelessly to break down the barriers to justice, making the law more affordable and accessible, empowering South Africans to enforce their rights.  We are proud of the fact that our employees come from different backgrounds and cultures. Because we strive to be a true friend in the law, it’s vital for our experts to be relatable, empathetic and able to assist clients in a language they are most comfortable with. Our diversity is our strength, and a big part of our success.

This month, LAW FOR ALL takes a closer look at:

  1. The History of the South African Flag

In 2019, the Nation mourned the loss of Mr Frederick Brownell, the designer of the South African flag.  So, in honour of his legacy and #HeritageMonth, we’re taking a closer look at the history of the South African flag, what the colours symbolise and what you’re legally allowed and not allowed to do with it.  It’s always great to brush up on your knowledge of this incredible symbol of freedom and equality.

  1. Customary Marriages in South Africa

South Africa’s diversity challenges the law to evolve and protect the rights of all citizens from all cultural backgrounds. The Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998 is an example of how traditions are recognised and respected.  But, no matter how we celebrate love, heritage and commitment in all its diversity, getting married is always a legal affair.

  1. Having a Braai in a Sectional Title in South Africa

Now we also cannot ignore the fact that Heritage Day is also synonymous with Braai Day in South Africa. Firing up the coals and grilling meat is pretty much a social ritual in our country. Of course, not everyone has a sprawling backyard to host a braai, and those in apartment complexes also want to participate in this proudly South Africa. But before you set up your braai and get the fire going, you should read up on what the law says about braai-ing is a sectional title scheme.

  1. Language Policies and Discrimination in the Workplace in South Africa

Despite only being the 6th most common language in South Africa, English is still mostly spoken in places of employment and is considered the preferable language for business. But with 11 official languages, surely it’s not a requirement for employees to only speak English in the office? We unpack language policies in the workplace and what constitutes discrimination.

language-policies-south-africa

Looking back but not thinking backwards

As mentioned, looking back to appreciate how far we’ve come as a country is incredibly important and insightful, but our thoughts and efforts must also firmly be set on the future.

We’ve Got Your Back!

LAW FOR ALL policies are pocket-friendly and provide comprehensive cover for whatever legal challenge life throws your way. For more information on how LAW FOR ALL can become your friend in times of need and help you navigate life have a look at our policies here.

DISCLAIMER

 

Challenges Facing Women Lawyers in South Africa

“When men are oppressed, it’s a tragedy. When women are oppressed, it’s tradition.”  

-Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Author and Social Activist-

 

Take some time to meditate on that quote… really think about what it means for women being oppressed to be so normalised that it becomes tradition. That should send chills down your spine.

It’s time to break the tradition.

There is no point in skirting around the issue: gender inequality is a tradition that persists and thrives in post-apartheid South Africa even- somewhat ironically- in the country’s legal landscape. It’s incredibly alarming that an institution that’s in place to enforce and be representative of a fair and equal South Africa perpetuates the discrimination that it should be fighting.

The reality for women lawyers in the legal industry in South Africa

To put things in perspective, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) released an investigative report in 2016 titled “The Lack of Gender Transformation in the Judiciary”. The report states that: “Over the past 20 years the number of women on the Constitutional Court has remained unchanged: two in 1994 and two in 2014; while the percentage of women in the other High Courts remains below 30%: as at October 2013, there were 77 female judges out of a total of 239 in South Africa”.

“Representatively, we have a long way ahead,” says LAW FOR ALL’s Managing Director, Adv. Jackie Nagtegaal. “The architecture of our economy and households have changed, but the legal minds who have to evolve the rules and regulations whereby we live have not kept up with this shift. Male perspective still greatly influences the law. As a result, we run the risk of creating laws that don’t match the playing field. For instance, take the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, which sees parental leave still being a responsibility that rests greatly on women, which has a dire effect on their careers and the gender equality gap in the workplace”.

Of course, this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, as the legal profession is dominated by men, most of which are white- hardly the face of a transformed, democratic South Africa. The CGE canvassed 12 of the country’s biggest firms and found that “80% of the chief executives were white men, as well as 72% of all managing partners”.

Sexual harassment in workplace remains a massive problem

According to Business Insider, almost half (the exact figure is 43%) of women lawyers in South Africa have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. At LAW FOR ALL, we take sexual harassment very seriously and have strict policies in place to ensure that the women who work at the company feel safe and can excel.  We are adamant about sending a clear message about what acceptable and respectable behaviour is at LAW FOR ALL.

Legal tip: just in case you need a reminder, here’s a guide to reporting sexual harassment in the workplace.

What’s the problem? Where is the disconnect?

If you ask a man, the answer will be something along the lines of women ‘being insufficiently rational and too intellectually inferior’ to be litigators and handle the pressures of the Bar. But, when you are asking a man, you are, more often than not, posing the question to the seemingly impenetrable wall of patriarchy. A barrier that’s built of bricks of ignorance and solidified by sexist perceptions. It’s the wall that contains and conceals the rampant gender inequality that still exists today. When company culture normalises the objectification of women colleagues and perpetuates the absurd idea that women attorneys are more efficient on cases ‘that women lawyers can relate to’ it institutionalises discrimination. Not to mention, we have to apply an intersectional lens to create awareness around the added discrimination experienced by African and queer women.

Be the change you want to see in the world #LAWFORALL

We need theoretical gender equality to become practical gender equality, and this can only be achieved if institutions uphold and implement the true values of our Constitution and take a wrecking ball to the patriarchal wall. At LAW FOR ALL, we are proud to be one of the frontrunners. We are a 50% female-owned company, and of the 73% of women employed at LAW FOR ALL, 62% are Black women

“Transformation is at the forefront of every decision we make as a legal service provider. It’s crucial for us to create the world we wish to see. Being in the legal industry, I believe there rests a greater onus on us to boost transformation, as it is the legal fraternity that shapes how we do things in the future. Representation and equal opportunity are essential elements for a truly democratic South Africa,” adds Adv. Nagtegaal.

We’ve got your back!

LAW FOR ALL policies are pocket-friendly and provide comprehensive cover for whatever legal challenge life throws your way. For more information on how LAW FOR ALL can become your friend in times of need and help you navigate life have a look at our policies here.

DISCLAIMER

Financial Aid for Black Lawyers: Transforming the Legal Industry

Lawyers play an important role in South Africa’s mission to dismantle racism and strive for economic transformation, and this has always been a cornerstone of LAW FOR ALL’s philosophy.  In uncertain political times, we’re seeing just how valuable the judiciary is when it comes to keeping the country on track.  Therefore, legal practitioners should lead the way and invite citizens to join the quest to change the socio-political climate of the future.

With the Legal Practice Amendment Act 16 of 2017, which was gazetted on Thursday 18 January, important steps were outlined towards realising a transformed legal practice fraternity. Despite this, the fraternity remains untransformed. As Blade Nzimande said in an address at the Young Lawyers Conference, regarding the issue of articles of clerkship: “Some of the Black lawyers who experience the problem contend that it took them on average four months to register articles compared to two weeks for their White counterparts in what essentially remain white legal firms. This inequality has a massive impact in the training and development of young lawyers seeking to join the profession.”

White-owned firms still far outnumber Black-owned firms.

LAW FOR ALL has understood its potential to aid progress for the last 25 years. This innovative company has been tirelessly fighting for an accessible legal system that provides legal service to all citizens by lawyers who are equally trained, equipped and treated. LAW FOR ALL has been actively involved in the transformation process and offers assistance to black legal professionals who struggle to keep their firms afloat by making financial aid available.

“Although the legal fraternity has made strides in terms of transformation, we have to accelerate the future growth and advancement. It is vital to support upcoming Black-owned firms in order to shape our landscape further and make inequality a thing of the past. It is for this reason that we actively participate in balancing the field for lawyers,” asserts LAW FOR ALL’s Managing Director, Adv. Jackie Nagtegaal.

In 2016, LAW FOR ALL supported Black- owned firms with financial assistance under its Fund a Firm project. Some of these firms included Malesa Moloto Attorneys, who were aided to take on their RAF cases. “The funds were used to improve our firm’s cash flow to meet the disbursements in our RAF cases for medical experts’ reports. The growth on our firm for having used the funds shall be seen and experienced in the near future. We thank LAW FOR ALL for their support,” said Mr. Moloto.

Another Black- owned firm, Abel Moeketsane Attorneys, noted that the funds were used to enhance the salaries of their staff as well as their operations in terms of equipment and office furniture. According to Mr Moeketsane, “It really meant a lot to us and it is a gesture from LAW FOR ALL to show that they want to see our firm succeed, develop and evolve. We would not have done it without LAW FOR ALL.”

As a legal service and cost cover provider, LAW FOR ALL insures the rights of hundreds and thousands of South Africans. They provide clients with legal advice and mediation services, and when it gets to litigation, instruct and pay attorneys to defend their clients. “We use lawyers who reflect our country’s demographics. Our customer base is made up of people who could not necessarily afford a lawyer, so by having legal cost cover, they are protected while our partner lawyers have work and guaranteed regular payments as the case progresses,” added Nagtegaal. In the 2017 financial year alone, LAW FOR ALL paid almost R13 million over to partner firms to represent its clients.

LAW FOR ALL urges law firms to send requests for financial aid, office supplies, accounting services, marketing assistance and business mentoring to firms@lawforall.co.za by 21 February 2018. Seed funding for aspirational practitioners wanting to set up their firms is also provided for by LAW FOR ALL on application.

The Numbers:

91% of the lawyers employed by LAW FOR ALL are black, and 63% female.

225 LAW FOR ALL partner firms are Black- owned.