Le­gal pro­fes­sion still racist, sex­ist

CityPress - - News - LESETJA MALOPE lesetja.malope@city­press.co.za

Deputy Chief Jus­tice Ray­mond Zondo has ac­knowl­edged that the le­gal pro­fes­sion in the coun­try is still sex­ist and that fe­male lawyers re­main side­lined in al­most all ar­eas of prac­tice.

Zondo, ad­dress­ing Law So­ci­ety of SA mem­bers dur­ing a cer­e­mony this week for the sign­ing of the pro­cure­ment pro­to­col for the le­gal pro­fes­sion, said that, al­though there is dis­crim­i­na­tion against black peo­ple in var­i­ous branches of the law, women seem to be the most com­monly dis­crim­i­nated against across all di­vi­sions.

Zondo fur­ther said there was also a dearth of women in al­most all branches of law.

“Those are branches of the law that tend to be more fi­nan­cially re­ward­ing for lawyers. Of course, fe­male lawyers are even ex­cluded from le­gal work that is also not fi­nan­cially re­ward­ing sim­ply be­cause large fac­tions of our so­ci­ety con­tinue to lack con­fi­dence in fe­male pro­fes­sion­als for no rea­son other than that they are women.”

The au­di­ence in­cluded sev­eral other judges, Deputy Jus­tice and Con­sti­tu­tional De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter John Jef­fery, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of other law so­ci­eties.

Zondo pointed out that he had yet to see a judg­ment on patent law writ­ten by a black judge, which demon­strated that the Bench faced its own trans­for­ma­tion chal­lenges.

While ac­knowl­edg­ing the ef­forts made by some in the sec­tor, he de­cried the dis­ap­point­ingly slow pace of trans­for­ma­tion. He said giv­ing black and fe­male lawyers com­mer­cial work was also im­por­tant for the trans­for­ma­tion of the ju­di­ciary.

“Within the ju­di­ciary, we are still deal­ing with is­sues of trans­for­ma­tion. What hap­pens in the le­gal pro­fes­sion has an ef­fect on the ju­di­ciary, par­tic­u­larly in terms of trans­for­ma­tion,” Zondo said.

“Since it is true that the econ­omy is still con­trolled by whites, most of the le­gal work from which black lawyers and women are ex­cluded is work that can mostly be pro­vided by com­pa­nies that are con­trolled by whites.”

The pro­to­col was drafted by a mul­ti­stake­holder ac­tion team con­sti­tuted to in­ves­ti­gate the pat­terns of le­gal brief­ings in the in­dus­try. It re­cently re­leased a re­port that found that there were gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and state-owned com­pa­nies that only used big law firms, “a few black ad­vo­cates and a lim­ited group of white ad­vo­cates”.

Jef­fery told City Press that his depart­ment was not sat­is­fied with the progress of trans­for­ma­tion in the le­gal pro­fes­sion and in brief­ing pat­terns. He also said that, al­though gov­ern­ment re­leased statis­tics on how many lawyers were briefed and the ra­cial de­mo­graph­ics of those pools of lawyers, he wanted the fees the lawyers charged to be re­leased as well.

“I would be ea­ger to have the fees charged re­leased be­cause it is pub­lic money. At the mo­ment, there seems to be some re­sis­tance,” he said.

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