Top Johannesburg law firm launches its free services

Xolile Bhengu

Xolile Bhengu

Underprivileged communities will receive free legal representation from a top law firm.

Lawyers from Leppan Beech Incorporated have established a social and community development department for their pro bono work.

The lawyers said underprivileged groups and individuals will not pay for the firm's services.

Warren Beech, founder and director of Leppan Beech, said planning for the launch of the department started two years ago.

Beech said the firm had been doing pro bono work for five years, handling matters of road and occupational accidents, employment disputes and displaced cases.

He said the firm hoped to assist at least 1500 people and groups this year, where they would have paid between R30000 and R200000 for legal representation.

He said: "It's a costly exercise for the firm, and we have advocates that work with us. Our main focus has been group representation to add more value for communities and individuals, and to help set legal precedence. But we do take individual cases based on merit, which is determined by the firm's board.

"It's a different way of spending money and you can see the direct benefits instead of just donating money. We think every law firm that has the ability to provide pro bono services should, as part of social responsibility."

Leppan Beech director Tinyiko Kubayi said his firm's lawyers are required to dedicate a certain number of billable hours to pro bono work, and they would also be encouraged to take part in projects which they are passionate about.

Kubayi said: "We want to be able to share our skills and experience to help the communities in which we work.

This means representing low-income clients directly or indirectly by assisting the charitable organisations that work in these communities."

The Johannesburg-based law firm said it would approach the South Africa Bar Association to allocate its members to volunteer pro bono services in partnership with the firm.