Still helping black lawyers

The Black Lawyers Association was formed in the 1970s for the purpose of resisting prosecution of black lawyers who practised law in the central business districts of the so-called white towns.

The Black Lawyers Association was formed in the 1970s for the purpose of resisting prosecution of black lawyers who practised law in the central business districts of the so-called white towns.

No black lawyer was allowed to practise in the so-called white areas under the infamous Group Areas Act No 35 of 1966, a mean piece of legislation that regulated where South Africans should live and work.

But this was not the only problem black lawyers faced. They also encountered problems in procuring articles of clerkship and securing funds to set up offices. In addition, they faced discrimination in the courts and other government institutions.

About 40 black lawyers in the then Transvaal met to discuss their plight. From this discussion emerged the idea to form the BLA. Until 1980, when it adopted a constitution, it took up other matters of concern on an ad hoc basis.

The aim of the BLA at that time was to expose and highlight discriminatory and unjust laws and to increase the number, and enhance the quality of black lawyers. Members sacrificed their time and resources to achieve these objectives on a voluntary basis.

In 2004, the BLA formed a legal education centre with the aim of providing the most up-to- date and relevant information and techniques which are critical to the development of a professional competitive edge necessary for the realisation of equality of opportunity.

The objectives of the centre are:

l To build the capacity of lawyers and expose black lawyers to areas of law from which they were previously excluded;

l To provide continuing legal education and services to the black community at large;

l To increase the number of black lawyers.

The centre has been conducting a 13-week course in commercial law practice since 2004. The classes are conducted from Monday to Thursday, in the evenings.

Topics covered include purchase and sale agreements, drafting of contracts such as financial agreements and structures, shareholders' agreements, agency, distributor as well as licensing and franchise agreements. Specific transactions such as joint ventures, initial public offerings and stock exchange listings, mergers and acquisitions, project finance and public private partnerships and dispute resolution are also covered.

Many hundreds of attorneys have been trained since the centre was established.

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