Up until now, the relationship between client and attorney has been governed by the Attorneys Act, 53 of 1975 and its regulations. However, the need for greater regulation and transparency was identified. To address this, the process regulating client engagement has been amended in terms of the Legal Practice Act, 28 of 2014 (LPA).
As part of this amended process, a letter of engagement must be signed by clients on all new instructions. The detailed information contained in these engagement letters is prescribed by Section 35(7) of the LPA and includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Confirmation of the instruction
- Information relating to the firm and its workings
- Indication of who will be dealing with the relevant matter
- An outline of the costs associated with the instruction as well as arrangements around any outsourcing of services
With this new process, the LPA aims to provide a legislative framework for the transformation and restructuring of the legal profession in line with constitutional imperatives. It also aims to regulate the affairs of legal practitioners, setting norms and standards through the establishment of a single South African Legal Practice Council and Provincial Councils.
The LPA promotes transparency and accountability, and ensures that clients are made fully aware of all important information relating to their matter. The clarity provided by the LPA in terms of the responsibilities of both legal professionals and clients will not only reduce uncertainty, but will contribute to more effective management of expectations.
The LPA came into force and effect on 1 November 2018, and all instructions from this date must be dealt with accordingly. As such, it is essential that clients sign the new engagement letters at the outset of the instruction in order to commence with the transfer and bond registration process.
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