Transformation at the Cape Bar
The Cape Bar strives to become representative of South African society. While there has been a steady increase over the last ten years in the numbers of black and female members and senior counsel, the demographic statistics of the Cape Bar’s membership reflect the ongoing impact of historic disadvantage.
The Cape Bar has implemented a range of policies and initiatives to facilitate transformation. These pertain to the governance structures at the Cape Bar, the selection of pupils; financial assistance for pupils and new members; maternity benefits; briefing patterns; fee-sharing; housing; and recommendations for the conferral of silk status.
The Cape Bar Pupillage Selection Policy has as one of its three main objectives, to make the Cape Bar ‘more representative of society, particularly in terms of race and gender’. In selecting who should be accepted into the pupillage programme, preference is given (through a demographically weighted points system) to black, female and disabled applicants.
Until 2006 financial assistance was available to pupils who required it from the Bar Bursary Fund. In April 2006 a fund was established for scholarships for suitably qualified black African women requiring financial assistance during their pupillage and first year of practice. The fund was funded by a levy on all members.
Since 2011 financial assistance has been made available to financially needy black and female pupils and junior members of less than two years standing from a Transformation Fund, which is funded by a compulsory transformation levy on all members. Transformation bursaries of up to R8000,00 per month may be awarded for up to twelve months depending on the recipient’s financial needs.
In April 2009 the Cape Bar adopted a maternity policy in terms of which female members may take a six month maternity leave period during which they are entitled to a remission from Bar dues, and a Bar contribution towards their chambers rental and floor dues.
The Cape Bar’s policy on housing requires that race and gender transformation be considered in the allocation of chambers. The effect of the policy is that the seniority of an applicant for chambers is no longer the main criterion to be taken into account for the allocation of chambers.
Briefing patterns and fee-sharing
The Cape Bar has adopted a policy for adoption by briefing entities, with a view to facilitating equal opportunities in the field of advocacy, increasing the race and gender composition of the Cape Bar, and building a pool of experienced black and women candidates for appointment to the Bench.
In selecting counsel, all reasonable endeavours should be made to: (a) identify black and female counsel in specific practice and interest areas; (b) ensure that black and female counsel receive a fair and equitable share of briefs, having due regard to the number of briefs delivered to counsel in any one year, the nature and complexity of the work involved and the fee value of such briefs; (c) regularly monitor and review the engagement of black and female counsel; and (d) regularly report internally on the extent to which the said measures have been implemented.
The search function of the Cape Bar’s website allows users to find black and female members of the Cape Bar.
The Cape Bar’s Silk Committee is explicitly empowered to take into account the need for the Bar to promote demographic representativeness in the conferral of Silk.