Forty newly qualified, previously disadvantaged advocates have been given a technological leg up in the form of a R 1.9 million sponsorship package from content and technology solutions provider, LexisNexis® South Africa.
With the approval of the General Council of the Bar of South Africa, LexisNexis is rolling out the second year of this enterprise development project that aims to reduce the financial burden on junior advocates as they establish new legal practices across the country. There are 10 recipients each in Pretoria and Johannesburg, five each in Cape Town and Durban, two in Free State and eight in the Eastern Cape.
Billy Last, CEO of LexisNexis South Africa, said the project was founded on the company’s underlying global purpose of advancing the rule of law across the world.
“Globally we as an organisation try to pursue partnerships that help to entrench universally accessible, independent and transparent legal systems and build strong societies.
“We commend these advocates for the hard work they’ve put in which makes them very worthy beneficiaries of this project. We also look forward to growing this initiative and continuing to foster and promote entrepreneurship among young advocates,” he said.
The total value of each 12 month sponsorship is R47 000 and includes a laptop, a 3G data package and platinum access to the My LexisNexis online legal research tool. The latter allows legal professionals to conduct day-to-day legal research more quickly and easily, and also offers access to important legal documentation anytime and anywhere.
Both the individual sponsorship amount and the number of recipients have increased since LexisNexis SA first invested nearly R 1.4 million to provide assistance to 34 new advocates in the 2013 pilot year.
Yaseen Rawoot, a candidate from Cape Town, said: "It's a fantastic opportunity for me to have access to such extensive resources at my fingertips at the start of my career as an advocate. Being part of this initiative will definitely help me to become a better advocate. It's a stepping stone to a brighter future."
A number of the recipients cited financial constraints as a major deterrent to success in the first year of working as an advocate.
Durban advocate Don Myeni said: “It would have been a struggle. Now I can focus on work knowing I have access to world class information and not worry about finance. What more could I wish for.”
Pretorian Buessy Gededger agreed: “The sponsorship goes a long way to helping start-up advocates. You have to spend a full year doing your pupillage without an income so it’s difficult to be in a position to acquire the tools of the trade. This sponsorship lightens the burden and enables you to stand on your own two feet.”
His colleague, Brummer R Mphela, said it meant he could do his work from anywhere and wouldn’t need to visit the office at night and over the weekend to do his research.
Advocate Thami Ncongwane SC, chairman of the Pretoria Bar and Advocates for Transformation Pretoria, said he hoped the project would continue to grow.
“To me the sponsorship is an important achievement and it will contribute tremendously to transformation of our profession and enable the recipients to render excellent legal service. I am grateful for this generous gesture from LexisNexis which will no doubt infuse new energy into our junior colleagues and go a long way to lessening the burden and reducing the frustration that comes with setting up a new practice,” he said.
LexisNexis will officially hand over the sponsorship packages to candidates over the month of February.
The company is lauded for its efforts to uphold the rule of law and for providing sophisticated online information and research tools that help the legal fraternity to save valuable time and improve efficiencies. Recently it introduced digital self-help kiosks for legal professionals at courts and also pioneered wireless technology at most of the country’s courts. Other efforts led by the company are centred around combating human trafficking, such as the launch of its Human Trafficking Awareness Index, as well as South Africa’s first ever Anti-Human Trafficking Compendium in partnership with the South African Police Service.
Anyone who would like more information about the LexisNexis Enterprise Development initiative can contact Neliswa Hlombe at LexisNexis on +27.31.268.3284. Consideration is given to candidates who: are previously disadvantaged individuals (PDI’s); are South African citizens; excel academically; are newly admitted members of the Bar and are attached to a chamber of advocates.