South Africa

Background 

South Africa has had a dramatic and unique past in recent years. In 1994, South Africa had its first non-racial and democratic elections, which culminated in Nelson Mandela being sworn in as the country’s first democratically-elected President.

The new South Africa has moved along a path of democracy, reconstruction, and development. South Africa is once again participating more fully in the international business world after a long-enforced isolation.

International businesses are returning to South Africa to re-establish old ties and forge new relationships. Concurrently, South African companies are venturing into the international marketplace.

South Africa has seen first-hand the importance of international trade as a tool for promoting social and economic development, creating job opportunities, increasing income, reducing poverty, and improving the living conditions of citizens.

Given its status as Africa’s dominant economy, South Africa will remain an attractive opportunity for foreign investors, especially those investors wishing to break into the African market.

IRLI and South Africa

Between 2002 and 2017 the Bar and Law Society of Ireland, in partnership with the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA), provided substantive training in Commercial Law to lawyers from historically disadvantaged backgrounds in South Africa.  When IRLI was founded in 2007, they took over the organisation of the Commercial Law Programme.

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 IRLI Commercial Law Training Programme, 2017

Commercial Law Programme – Structure

Intensive tuition was provided by experienced Irish and South African lawyers through lectures, workshops, seminars, video and role-play. At the end of the course, the participants took a written examination and those who passed received a certificate.

Three/four participants were then selected on merit to undertake commercial law training with a large commercial firm in Ireland.

From 2002- 2012 the course ran twice a year, moving throughout South Africa – Pretoria, Durban, East London and Cape Town. In 2012 LSSA and IRLI expanded the week-long course into an intensive year-long Commercial Law Training Programme which involves distance learning, face-to-face tuition, mentoring and placement opportunities. To date, the course has reached over 500 lawyers.

As part of the four-year Irish Aid South Africa Programme, from 2012 to 2015, four one-year Commercial Law Training Programmes were provided to a total of 80 participants with an even gender balance among the group.

Each participant was provided with:

  • One Year Corporate Law Certificate distance-learning Course, provided by the University of South Africa (UNISA);
  • A 6-day Preliminary Commercial Law Workshop, provided by a team of Irish and South African attorneys and an Irish accountant;
  • A 3-day Drafting Course, provided by South African practitioners with the support of an Irish solicitor;
  • A mentorship scheme where participants were paired with Commercial attorneys within South Africa.

In 2017, IRLI announced its partnership with Matheson. As a result, there is sustained support for the South African Commercial Law Programme and Matheson trainees also receive experience working with disadvantaged communities on training of Commercial Law skills. This has strengthened the experience gained by participants in South Africa and Ireland.

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IRLI Commercial Law Training Programme in session, 2017

IRLI has received noteworthy praise from South Africans such as Judge Edwin Cameron, a Judge in the Supreme Court of Appeal and a leading human rights activist in the field of LGBT rights, South Africans with AIDS and Apartheid.

Success of the Programme

With little prominence given to commercial law during formal legal training in South Africa, and with little opportunity for lawyers from rural or disadvantaged backgrounds to subsequently break into the commercial law arena, participants have expressed sincere gratitude for the focus of this course on building confidence and knowledge.

Participants have used the training as a springboard for expanding their practice or securing a better job.

This has particular significance in isolated areas where lawyers can in turn use their knowledge to encourage greater contribution to the market economy and provide valuable legal assistance to local businesses.

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Members of the IRLI delegation and the LSSA, South Africa, 2017

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This project is funded by Irish Aid