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On 08 November 2020 the Legal Practice Council issued an invitation to legal practitioners to participate in consultations for the development of the Legal Sector Code as a B-BBEE charter for the legal profession. Following the consultations and discussions within the Steering Committee, the draft Legal Sector Code was amended and published on 11 February 2021 for public comment (which closed on 15 March 2021). Now in its second iteration for public comment, the draft Legal Sector Code seeks to bring the legal profession under sector-specific B-BBEE codes.

The Code, once promulgated, will apply to all legal practitioners, i.e., attorneys and advocates including practitioners in private practice, organs of state and public entities, and Legal Aid.

The draft Legal Sector Code differentiates in some instances between attorneys and advocates and makes provision for different indicators and targets within the scorecards. To determine whether a legal practice qualifies as an Exempt Legal Entity (EME), a Qualifying Small Entity (QSE) or a Large Entity, the following criteria will be applied:

  • The total annual revenue of the entity;
  • The number of partners/directors in the firm;
  • The number of years in existence.

Some aspects of the draft Code are controversial and cause for concern. These include:

  • Lower annual total revenue thresholds for legal practitioners to be fully exempt from complying to the scorecard requirements;
  • The suggestion that legal practitioners (attorneys and advocates) would be required to do between 200 and 500 mandatory hours per annum of pro bono service for the benefit of the poor, marginalized and black clients from rural areas;
  • Black ownership target increases over a three-year period, resulting in an ultimate black ownership target for QSE’s of 40% and for large entities of 50%;
  • Specific procurement indicators awarding significant points for procurement (that are core to the business) from > 75% black owned suppliers and from > 51% black women owned suppliers.

The next step for the Legal Practice Council will be to gazette the Code in terms of Section 9(1) of the B-BBEE Act, which will mean that it will become binding on the public and private sectors. Legal practitioners can now only hope that some of the suggested clauses will be reconsidered.

For any B-BBEE-related assistance, please contact the CORE BEE team.

Prepared by CORE BEE.

For more information, contact 051-448 8188.

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