South Africa

Commercial law provides the legal basis for one of the most important institutions in organising and stimulating the economy, namely, corporate business entities. Companies, in various forms, are central to a country’s economy and its prosperity – for wealth creation and social renewal. There is a real and constant need to bring Commercial law in line with international trends and to reflect and accommodate the changing environment for business, both at a national level and globally. Furthermore, the growth of the small business sector creates a need for simpler and more accessible laws.

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.

For a number of years IRLI, in partnership with the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA), has provided substantive training in Commercial Law to lawyers from historically disadvantaged backgrounds in South Africa. The course runs twice a year, moving throughout South Africa – Pretoria, Durban, East London and Cape Town. It is taught by experienced Irish and South African lawyers over a six day period. Intensive tuition is provided through lectures, workshops, seminars, video and role-play. At the end of each course, the participants take a written examination and those who pass receive a certificate. Four participants are then selected on merit to undertake commercial law training with a large commercial firm in Ireland.

In 2012 LSSA and IRLI expanded the weeklong course into an intensive year-long Commercial Law Training Programme which involves distance learning, face-to-face tuition, mentoring and placement opportunities.

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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This project is funded by Irish Aid