A war of words has erupted within the legal profession over the proposed amendments to the Legal Practitioners Act to set new rules for the legal practitioners.??The proposed amendments have sparked division within the profession with some members coming out in opposition to the amendments by tabling a motion of no confidence directed against the current Council of the Law Society of Botswana (LSB).
?The proposed guidelines, if adopted, would see attorneys losing business privacy in as far as operating their firms is concerned.
It would also be difficult for some attorney to set up a law firm.??In a letter dated 30 July 2013, LSB Executive Secretary Tebogo Moipolai notified LSB members that the business to be transacted at the special general meeting to be held on 17 August 2013 shall be to consider and adopt amendments to regulation for use by law firm to report annual audited trust accounts of law firms to LSB Council.?The proposed amendments also state that a report and explanations for no compliance and a finding on whether such are satisfactory shall without derogation be required where there is failure to separate trust reports from business receipts, there is failure to separate trust and business cheque books and there is failure to clearly distinguish and mark as documents trust and business accounts.?The special meeting will also “consider and adopt guidelines for matters incidental to applying for a Practicing Certificate and the setting up of a law firm”.?
According to the proposed guidelines, in order to set up a law firm, a lawyer should hold a practising certificate; have undergone a course on operation of a trust account prescribed by LSB in the previous six months or so.?In order to set up a law firm, a lawyer should also submit confirmation from a Certified Auditor that he or she possesses sufficient knowledge of accounting to enable him or her to comply with requirements Regulations of the Society.?He or she should also submit Lease Agreements or other Agreement as evidence of occupation of premises where the law firm will be situated.?The lawyer intending to operate a law firm should also hold a certificate issued by the LSB that following inspection, the premises meet the minimum standards to ensure compliance with the Regulations of the Society, including but not limited to: attorney client confidentiality, safety and security of the client information, is not sharing or cannot reasonably be perceived and is not in such condition or situated in a location that may bring the Society into disrepute.?
The inspection on the premises shall be undertaken by Council or any person nominated by Council on behalf of the society.?But a number of lawyers are countering the proposed amendments. In a petition to LSB signed by a considerable number of lawyers, dated 15 August, the members threaten to pass a motion of no confidence against LSB Council as whole at a special general meeting of the Law Society to be held on Saturday 17 August 2013.?“Be pleased to take notice that the council of the Law Society of Botswana are notified of a motion of no confidence in their leadership sought to be passed against and to require them to vacate office with immediate effect on getting majority vote,” ┬áreads the petition in part.?
The petition also states that: “The object of this notice is supported by at least 25 percent members of the society whose names and addresses are attached as evidence of subscription to the letter addressed to Moipolai.?A lawyer who preferred anonymity said the current council does not have the interest of general membership at heart.?“They are coming up with amendments aimed at contravening business privacy. It is for that reason that we are determined as members to usher in a new council that will act in accordance with the purpose to which the LSB was created and not in a manner adverse to the interest of the membership,” said the lawyer.?He added that: “How do you have a council that does not want its members to open or operate law firms,” wondered the concerned lawyer.?
He said instead of dealing with important issues such as the amendment of the constitution and the appointment of judges, the current council leadership focus on peripheral issues.?The LSB Chairman, Lawrence Lecha, declined to comment on the matter saying he does not want to pre-empt issues to be discussed at the meeting.