The legal education division of the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) has grown significantly since its establishment in the 1970s. In 1975, the then Association of Law Societies (ALS) – the predecessor of the LSSA – began to offer continuing legal education (CLE) seminars to attorneys. In 1979 the first (PLT) practical legal training course for candidate attorneys was offered in Pretoria. This was followed by the establishment of similar 25-day courses in other parts of the country.

From approximately 300 participants in the first years, LEAD provided training to more than 12 000 persons in 2010.

In 1989, the council of the then ALS resolved to launch the ‘School for Legal Practice’, to offer practical legal training to LLB graduates, over six months. The purpose was to provide more in-depth structured vocational training to graduates, and also to assist those who had difficulty in securing articles of clerkship.

The first School was offered as a pilot project in Pretoria in 1990 and was attended by 51 students. The growth of the School was rapid and currently 1 200 graduates per year receive training at the School’s ten centres across the country. The School offers 25 learning programmes during the day, after hours and in distance format. To date, more than 15 000 graduates have been trained at the School’s centres.

View the LEAD 25th anniversary School video here.

In 1993 practical training for candidate attorneys was made compulsory for admission as an attorney.
Many candidate attorneys opt for the shorter, 25-day PLT courses. Some 1 300 candidate attorneys attend these courses every year. Like the School, the practical training courses are offered at 10 centres throughout the country and training is offered at full-time and part-time programmes.

An amendment to the Attorneys Act entitles a candidate who successfully completes the School for Legal Practice to a reduction in articles of clerkship of six months.
An important result of the amendment was that candidate attorneys who attend the ‘night’ School and serve their articles simultaneously, may complete only one year of articles.

In 2003, the CLE and PLT sections of the Law Society of SA were merged to form the new LEAD (Legal Education and Development) division. This division is responsible for practical legal training courses, Schools, seminars, postgraduate legal training programmes that are offered in conjunction with universities, the drafting of admission examination papers, liaison with educational institutions and practice management training.

In 2009 the attendance of practice management training became mandatory for every practising attorney who is issued with a Fidelity Fund certificate for the first time. Attendance of LEAD’s practice management training programme has increased from 100 to more than 500 in 2010.

The number of seminars offered by LEAD has increased substantially with more than 5 000 persons attending seminars in 2010.

LEAD has also become involved with the training on behalf of external clients, including the Financial Services Board, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the South African Police Service, SASOL and SARS.

In 2008 LEAD launched judicial skills training courses for practising attorneys in order to assist attorneys in their preparation for acting as judicial offers in the regional and High Court.
From 2009 LEAD has offered legal support staff training to approximately 3 300 staff at law firms.

In 2010, the e-learning method was introduced by LEAD. To date, four online courses have been developed as part of its e-LEADer initiative.

The latest challenge for LEAD is to advise the profession on the introduction of mandatory continuing professional development (CPD). The concept of CPD for attorneys was adopted by the LSSA Council in November 201, after substantial research as well as consultation with the profession. It is envisaged that this will promote a greater culture of learning and open up new learning opportunities and methods in the profession.
In many respects, LEAD is recognised as the preferred provider of vocational training and professional development.

Download the 2011 LEAD statistics document which gives an overview of the demographics and statistics relating to Schooll attendance, attendance of other training initiatives, law students, law graduates, new admissions to the attorneys' profession and practising attorneys (as at July 2011).

About the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA)

The LSSA brings together its six constituent members - the Black lawyers Association, the Cape Law Society, the Law Society of the Free State, the Kwazulu-Natal law SOciety, the Law Society of the Northern Prrovinces and the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel) - in reprersenting the attorneys' profession. LEAD is one of the divisions of the LSSA

The LSSA celebrated its tenth anniversary in March 2008. Its predecessor was the Association of Law Societies of the Republic of South Africa, which existed from 1938 to 1998. The LSSA was established in 1998. It has six constituent members – the Black Lawyers Association (BLA), the Cape Law Society, the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society, the Law Society of the Free State, the Law Society of the Northern Provinces and the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel).

The LSSA represents the attorneys’ profession in South Africa, which comprises 20 000 attorneys and 5 000 candidate attorneys as at August 2010.

In terms of the Attorneys Act, 1979 attorneys must register with the provincial law society where they practice, so attorneys are members of the four provincial law societies referred to above. The provincial law societies also register the articles of clerkship for candidate attorneys. They are the regulatory and disciplinary bodies for attorneys. If a member of the public is dissatisfied with the service received from his/her attorney, he/she can lodge a complaint with the relevant provincial law society where the attorney is registered.

The LSSA’s forerunner, the Association of Law Societies – an association of the four statutory law societies established in 1938 – brought together the statutory law societies and the non-statutory lawyers’ organisations (BLA and Nadel) after 1994, and, after protracted discussions and negotiations, a statement of principles was signed by the six constituents in July 1996 which set out the guidelines for national restructuring.

The statement of principles envisaged a national statutory structure, with nine provincial substructures. The LSSA – an interim structure with a council comprising a 50:25:25 representation of the statutory (law society) and non-statutory (BLA and Nadel) representatives – would take over the role and assets of the ALS with the aim of encouraging unity between members of the profession, overcoming the divisions of the past and promoting new legislation to create a national, unified structure for the governance of the profession.

In September 1996 a team began drafting the LSSA constitution and a provisional twenty-person committee, echoing the future LSSA council, was set up to steer the various drafts of the constitution through the six constituent members. In February 1998 the twenty-person committee met for the last time to reaffirm the commitment of the then ALS, BLA and Nadel to the restructuring process and to finalise arrangements for the signing of the LSSA constitution.

The constitution of the LSSA was signed at a special ceremony in Parliament in March 1998 attended by all the councilors of the six constituent members, the late Minister of Justice Dullah Omar, a number of parliamentarians, members of the judiciary, representatives of the General Council of the Bar (which represents advocates) and the International Bar Association.

The LSSA has two Co-Chairpersons which chair the Council and lead the LSSA for a year.

The mission and objectives of the Law Society of South Africa are contained in the constitution. See www.lssa.org.za