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THE UNIVERSITY OF JOHANNESBURG (“THE UJ”) LAW CLINIC 1981 – present
The Law Clinic consists of three individual clinics, each headed by a Principal Attorney under the auspices of the director, Mrs N Naidoo.
CELEBRATING MORE THAN 30 YEARS
The Law Clinic celebrated its 40 years of existence in 2021. We are proud of the tradition of serving the poor and indigent community through the provision of free legal services.
All our achievements over the years can only be ascribed to the dedication, and persistence of the law clinic attorneys and past directors, who had to overcome many obstacles to create an awareness of the value of clinical legal education at institutional level. We strive to continue increasing the momentum of the Law Clinic to add even more value to LLB students’ training and learning experience at the Faculty of Law.
The Law Clinic strives to achieve two primary goals namely:
(a) clinical education of final-year LLB students with the emphasis on the development of an ability to think analytically, and instilling an awareness of the practical consequences of applying theoretical knowledge; and
(b) delivery of free legal services to indigent members of the public in line with the guidelines of the Law Society of South Africa.
THE THREE CLINICS
Auckland Park Kingsway Campus Law Clinic
This clinic is situated on the UJ main campus and although the emphasis is on general Magistrates’ Court litigation and family law, other types of cases will be considered if our court schedules allow it. It is the mainstay of our operations. Two attorneys are based here namely, Ms Zipo Zuba and Ms Sanele Ndlovu. The Law Clinic senior secretary, Mrs. Magda Otto, also has her office there. The clinic is well-known in the surrounding suburban areas and attracts a steady flow of clients. Some clients however also come from other areas further away.
Doornfontein Campus Law Clinic
This clinic is situated on the Doornfontein Campus at the corner of Siemert and Beit Streets, Doornfontein, Johannesburg. The areas close to this clinic are densely populated or industrialised areas, and include inter alia Doornfontein, New Doornfontein, Troyeville, Fairview, Jeppestown, Central Johannesburg and Hillbrow. Here too the emphasis is on general Magistrates’ Court litigation and family law. The Principal Attorney here is Mrs. Elize Radley assisted by Ms. Keikantse Mokwena her candidate attorney and the secretary is Mrs. Mamokgele Maleka.
Soweto Campus Law Clinic
This clinic opened in February 2011 after many years of planning. It is situated on the Soweto Campus in Chris Hani Road, Power Park, Soweto in a building specially upgraded for this purpose. This clinic serves the community of the greater Soweto. We had to sacrifice the Johannesburg Courts Clinic in order to have enough staff for the Soweto Clinic. In opening this clinic a strategic objective has also been achieved in that all three clinics are now run as separate Law Practices. The experience gained by students at any of the clinics are exactly the same and the methods of practice are also the same.
There is a great need for legal services among the less affluent and poor people of Soweto, and unfortunately the amount of potential clients by far overshadows the amount of cases that we can actually take on. The attorneys here are Mrs. Alet Beyl, (the Principal Attorney) and Mr. Elton Hart. The secretary is Mrs. Gugu Fakude.
WHY A LAW CLINIC?
Each Law Clinic is similar to a private attorney’s practice. Service by students at the clinic constitutes real legal work, and presents the law student with the opportunity to participate in experiential service learning through dealing directly with live clients and real cases. This is the first primary goal to be achieved by the clinic. The consequences of the legal decisions taken by the client, based on the advice given by the student are real. We pride ourselves on the fact that our students take their work at the clinic very seriously and also start to take an interest in the background and circumstances of their clients.
This type of live training also assists the legal professions in the sense that the student who achieves his or her LLB degree, already has some practice-based experience. Without the Law Clinic this would usually only become part of his or her learning environment once he has been registered as a candidate attorney as required by the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014.
The same applies to our future advocates who also have to serve a period of pupilage under the supervision of an advocate at the Bar after they have obtained their LLB degree. Continuous assessment that is formative and summative is used in the clinic purposefully to ultimately help the student develop into the best lawyer that he or she can be.
The second primary goal is based on section 34 in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, that guarantees everyone access to courts. Access to justice is a national problem for the poor and the indigent and apart from Legal Aid South Africa and various non-governmental organisations, the Law Clinics at Universities are the last recourse to those who cannot afford to obtain legal representation.
The attorneys in the law clinic are generally known as “clinicians”. This is where you will find lawyers with empathy for the poor and the drive to serve the community, while at the same time never sacrificing the exemplary high standards of teaching that the UJ Law Clinic and Faculty of Law had become renowned for.
The Law Clinic is run as an independent professional attorney’s practice and is recognised as such by its professional body. The Clinic applies for and receives accreditation and certification annually in terms of Section 34 (8)(a) of the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 and subscribes to and adheres to the same rules applicable to any private attorney.
While our wish is for all of our graduates to be financially very successful and independent, we gratefully acknowledge the work done by some former students in order to further the aims of the clinic after they have started their law careers. This is the true clinical spirit that will uphold the constitutional ideal of access to justice for all!
History of the Law Clinic
The Law Clinic at the UJ formally opened its doors to the public in February 1981 with 18 students. The former Dean of the Faculty of Law, and former member of the MEC of the University of Johannesburg, Professor Patrick O’ Brien, was one of those very first students who rendered free legal service to the community. The main aims of the Law Clinic developed with time and experience gained and eventually, in conjunction with the rendering of free legal services, the training of law students in a clinical environment dealing with live clients became one of its main points of focus. Over the years the Law Clinic also ventured into areas such as Hillbrow.
In the past many community projects such as advice to senior citizens at old age homes, to name but one, had been run successfully and the National Diploma in Law (Paralegal Studies) – (NDL) had been successfully developed and supervised by the Law Clinic. The core business of the Law Clinic is now two-fold, namely clinical legal education of final year LLB students and providing legal services to those who cannot otherwise afford legal representation and advice.
The structure of the Law Clinic currently consists of three separate clinics, each aiming to serve a specific community with specific needs in terms of the type of access to justice required.
Final year LLB students attend to clients and cases under the supervision of 6 attorneys.
The number of students attending the Law Clinic is on the rise with 165 students in 2007 to more than 300 in 2022.
The Law Clinic is nationally recognised as one of the leaders in its field and this is mainly due to the endurance, research and studies, canvassing, leadership, vision and hard work of the previous directors of the Clinic.
1981 – 1982 Prof SWJ van der Merwe
1983 – 1985 Mr G Joubert
1986 – 1991 Mr P de Kock
1991 – 2007 Adv E Steenhuisen
2007 – 2019 Mr EJ Hanekom
2020 – present Mrs N Naidoo
ACADEMIC THEORETICAL COMPONENT: APPLIED LEGAL STUDIES
The Law Clinic and its theoretical component resort under the Department of Criminal and Procedural Law. The clinical component is amplified and supported by the theoretical academic course Applied Legal Studies. This compulsory one-year course is presented in the final-year of LLB and consists of six modules, namely: communication, ethics, divorces, drafting of pleadings, small claims courts and certain aspects of litigation techniques. While the Director is responsible for the lectures, the Principals and attorneys who are involved in day-to-day litigation furnishes continuous input and updates from daily practice to be assimilated into the course.
Up to the end of 2007 the subject was a fully fledged one-year module, but during 2008 it was adapted into a compulsory semester module and certain aspects of the subject were changed in order to add value to the experience of the students. From January 2009 it was changed back to a one-year module but for practical reasons lectures were only presented every second week. The course carries the credits of a year module. Due to the intense nature of the training of students in a clinical environment, as well as the extensive array of skills that need to be imparted to our final year LLB’s in order to equip them with the basic skills needed in the Law Clinic, the theoretical component is presented in 3 x 45 minute lectures twice a week.
FUNDING AND PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANCE
The Law Clinic’s primary source of funding as far as salaries of staff is concerned, is the Faculty of Law. Funds for day-to-day running costs are derived from the profits made by the National Diploma in Law (Paralegal Studies). Currently the Legal Practice Council also makes a substantial contribution towards the running expenses of the Law Clinic. This contribution is made on condition that the Law Clinic continues to make a satisfactory contribution to providing free legal services to the community and submits quarterly reports.
As far as legal assistance and court cases are concerned, final year LLB students, supervised and assessed by the professional staff of the clinic attend to consultation with clients, discussing the clients legal problems with the attorneys, doing legal research and giving legal advice to clients, opening of files and managing the finances on the file, dealing with housekeeping issues, drafting of letters, court pleadings and motions to court, as well as preparation of court cases in general. All of this is continuously and extensively supervised and corrected by the attorneys on a daily basis. The actual appearances in court obviously have to be done by the attorneys themselves. Since funding for court cases is not available or provided for in the Law Clinic budget, there is always a need for expert legal assistance and the assistance of other experts on a pro bono basis, especially when a case has to be heard by the High Court but nevertheless also in the Magistrates’ Courts.
The UJ Law Clinic won first prize as Best Community Engagement Project for 2012. This success story is a tribute to the dedication and professionalism of the staff of the Law Clinic. It also shows that our final year LLB students care for their community and wish to extend access to justice to those members of the community who cannot afford private legal assistance.
We learn from the past to build on in the future. The Doornfontein Law Clinic that opened in January 2008, is attracting the attention of the needy of the almost forgotten people of the inner suburbs of Johannesburg. Mrs. Elize Radley previously acted as supervising attorney at the erstwhile Johannesburg Courts Clinic and during 2011 the Doornfontein Law Clinic on a half day basis as Principal Attorney. Her post had been converted into a full-day position from the beginning of 2012 as a result of the constantly increasing student numbers. Mrs. Radley has recently dealt with a number of very difficult cases successfully and continues to do so.
The “new” branch of the UJ Law Clinic on the UJ Soweto Campus, is in operation for its second year. It is housed in a building was specially redesigned and adapted for our purposes and finally lends a sense of permanency to the Law Clinic. This has opened the way to serve the massive community of Soweto where services such as ours are still much needed, and the challenge is huge. The students and staff at the Soweto Law Clinic are constantly stretched to their limits due to the numbers of clients that seek their legal assistance.
On 12 May 2011 the UJ Soweto Law Clinic was officially opened. We were honoured to have the Deputy Chief Justice, Judge Dikgang Moseneke as well as the then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, Prof. Ihron Rensburg present to launch this clinic and to unveil a plaque on our clinic building commemorating the event.
The Faculty of Law’s commitment to Community Engagement and the Law Clinic is tangible and we were grateful for the invaluable contributions of the former Dean, Prof. LG Mpedi, as well as the then Head of the Department of Procedural Law, Prof. Dawie de Villiers, towards broadening our horizons into Soweto.
The Soweto Law Clinic, Principal Attorney, Mrs. Alet Beyl has done a sterling job at settling this clinic and it is now a well-known resource in the Soweto community. The attorney, Mr. Elton Hart, who previously practiced in Cape Town, has made a significant contribution to the success of this clinic.
Behind it all is the dedication of the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus Law Clinic, Mrs. Natasha Naidoo, as well as that of the Law Clinic secretary, Mrs. Magda Otto, who toiled quietly behind the scenes and took on a lot of extra work in order to give the rest of the professional staff the opportunity to settle into their new environments at the other two clinics. This clinic continuously finalizes high number of litigious matters either through settlement or in court cases. We are fortunate to currently have Ms Zipo Zuba and Sanele Ndlovu at the APK Campus Law Clinic as well.
DOORNFONTEIN CAMPUS OFFICE
House nr. 5A
Corner of Siemert and Beit Streets
University of Johannesburg
Tel: 011 559 6763 / 6506
SOWETO CAMPUS OFFICE
Chris Hani Road
Tel: 011 559 5200
AUCKLAND PARK KINGSWAY CAMPUS OFFICE
Auckland Park Kingsway Campus
Corner of Kingsway and University Roads
Tel: 011 559 2633
General Contact information:
P.O Box 524
Docex: DX202 JHB