On Friday, 22 October 2021, the University of Venda (UNIVEN), through the Faculty of Management, Commerce and Law, and the Law Society of South Africa Legal Education and Development (LSSALEAD), signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). The signing ceremony took place at the University’s Council Chambers.
During the signing of the MOA, UNIVEN and the Law Society of South Africa announced the establishment of the School for Legal Practice Venda Campus. The school will present a practical Legal training course according to Regulation 6 of the Legal Practice Act 28 2014. The Regulation makes provision for any person with an LLB degree and who has attended and completed practical legal training for an uninterrupted period of at least four (04) months to be admitted as an attorney. Such attendance and certification will also exempt candidates from service under articles of clerkship for one year.
In his welcome address, the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Management, Commerce and Law, Prof Modimowabarwa Kanyane, said this partnership is a huge intervention in our area and globally. Prof Kanyane said UNIVEN welcomes this endeavour and intervention within the ambit of the University’s vision and mission of producing globally competitive graduates and deepening community engagement in the Law Profession. “Our presence is marking a historical footprint that will be remembered by generations to come. It is a historical footprint that we will reckon and cherish time immemorial.”
The Dean of the UNIVEN School of Law, Prof Lonias Ndlovu, said that when UNIVEN LLB students complete their studies, they proceed to institutions where they will look for practical legal training opportunities, including attending the School for Legal Practice. He added that it had come to their attention that there is a need for a School for Legal Practice to service the local community. Prof Ndlovu mentioned a gap between what happens in the faculty (while students are still studying for their undergraduate degrees) and what they learn in the workplace and at the School for Legal Practice. “This is an opportunity for the University to bridge the identified gap because we want to produce whole graduates who can practice the law and pursue other related careers.”
Principal of the Polokwane School for Legal Practice, Mrs Queen Gopo, mentioned that the two institutions would cooperate and set out governance structures based on equitable representation of stakeholders on the School Advisory Committee. She said some of the responsibilities of the School Advisory Committee would be to initiate and respond to proposals for the development of practical legal training and to appoint competent and experienced instructors. “The school will start as a pilot initiative commencing in January 2022 with the night school intake.”
The school is established to make practical legal training and the acquisition of specific skills more accessible to candidate attorneys and LLB graduates who intend to attend a school for legal practice but are subject to constraints of time, geographical location, or employment commitments. The value of attending practical legal training should not be undervalued. It allows LLB graduates to come to grips with all aspects and skills required in legal practice. It is a reality that articles do not always provide candidate attorneys with the full spectrum of knowledge and skills needed. This school will bring convenience for students from Venda and surrounding communities to attend legal training without disrupting their employment commitments or suffering the inconvenience of travelling to Polokwane.
The Former Executive Committee Member of the Law Society of South Africa and long serving Councillor, Mr Francis Mvundlela, addressed attendees on behalf of the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) and its constituent members. Mr Mvundlela expressed that the signing of this MOA marks an important milestone in the processes of educating young lawyers. He said that having obtained his legal qualification at UNIVEN makes it even more important for him to proudly be part of this historical moment at the officiating of the establishment of the UNIVEN School for Legal Practice. “This is a service that is long overdue for the people of our region, province, and country.”
Mr Mvundlela explained that the LSSA has at its disposal a wealth of information and skills that they use to ensure that they remain relevant to all their stakeholders, especially young law graduates and practitioners. “What students learn at university serves as the foundation of legal knowledge. LSSA builds on the practical implementation via skills learned at the school, including analyses, innovation critical thinking and client care in a professional and ethical manner.” He continued to explain that the LLB law graduates who complete the course at a school qualify for one year’s credit for their practical vocational training contract period (articles) as candidate attorneys. This fast track the admission process of those students into the legal field of practice of their choice, be it the Advocates or Attorneys profession. Therefore, their view as the LSSA is that this moment deserves to be celebrated and embraced for better access to the legal profession by the people of this region.
“We look forward to a fruitful partnership and we appeal to all the legal practitioners in this area to avail themselves to be instructors in the school. We believe that the University will now benefit a lot.”
The Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Bernard Nthambeleni, highlighted that, although UNIVEN would have loved to have had an opportunity to be one of the pioneer campuses to be accredited to host a School for Legal Practice, we are pleased that our University will now get its opportunity to contribute almost 31 years later – in 2021. Dr Nthambeleni indicated that the Law Society of South Africa’s practical vocational training is currently offered at nine campuses dotted across the country, in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, East London, Johannesburg, Polokwane, Port Elizabeth, Potchefstroom, and Pretoria. He added that we are pleased that UNIVEN will now be added to the list and modestly contribute to the legal education of future legal practitioners, especially those coming from previously disadvantaged communities located in rural areas such as ourselves.
“Although the Polokwane School for Legal Practice has served and continues to serve students from UNIVEN, the establishment of the UNIVEN School for Legal Practice will go a long way towards satisfying the hunger for practical legal education. Our School of Law at UNIVEN is currently punching above its weight to provide general legal education, offering undergraduate (LLB) and postgraduate qualifications (LLM and PhD degrees).”
Dr Nthambeleni continued to say, while Law students learn a lot of practical law from the Law Clinic and in some relevant adjectival law modules, they will further hone their practical skills at the UNIVEN School for Legal Practice, which will now be conveniently located here in this main campus of UNIVEN.
He said, pedagogically, both Schools will learn from each other and compare notes. Students will improve their chances of getting employed and successfully practising law after being exposed to further practical aspects.
UNIVEN Director Legal Services, Advocate Eric Nemukula said, indeed, this will be a fruitful partnership. He facilitated the signing of the MOA.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Teaching and Learning Prof Jan Crafford gave a vote of thanks.
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University of Venda
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Date: 03 November 2021