The Legal Practice Bill, Community Service, Pro Bono and the Ethics of Legal Representation
The Legal Practice Bill provides that requirements regarding community service may be prescribed. One possibility that may be prescribed is that law students may have to undertake a certain number of hours of community service in order to qualify as attorneys. Such a requirement is laudable in that it is directed at providing countless people, who would otherwise not be able to afford legal advice, with access to justice. However, these provisions have been the subject of much debate amongst various important stakeholders – law students, legal practitioners, law firms and government. The Bill provides that regulations will be promulgated regarding community service, but before such regulations are promulgated, it is necessary to consider the ethics and implications of compulsory community service, and how to balance the right to access to justice with the need to ensure quality legal advice for those who need it.
Will the rendering of community service become an entry requirement for the profession? Is it ethical to require that law students/graduates, who have not yet qualified as attorneys and who have no practical experience in the field, give legal advice? What are the mechanisms for ‘quality control’ when it comes to community service and pro bono work ? How will community service and pro bono work be monitored? Should we rather make legal community service compulsory for newly admitted attorneys or should community service/pro bono work be one of the rotations when completing articles?
This panel would consider the Bill’s community service provisions, and the positions taken by various stakeholders, such as law clinics, students, law societies, NGOs, law firms and Government, with regard to these provisions.