Lockdown accelerates Bar Council of the Pretoria Society of Advocates' demise

The Bar Council of the Pretoria Society of Advocates says it will apply for provisional liquidation.
The Bar Council of the Pretoria Society of Advocates says it will apply for provisional liquidation.
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The declaration of a national state of disaster has catapulted an already financially distressed Bar Council of the Pretoria Society of Advocates into dire straits.

The council decided in principle, at a meeting on Friday, to apply to court for a provisional order of liquidation. It is owed in excess of R8.5m by members and previous members.

“The financial position of the society has been steadily deteriorating over a number of years mainly as a result of economic realities and some members being unable to pay their bar fees,” said a statement issued by Janett Gildenhuys, chairperson of the Bar Council on Sunday.

“Since the declaration of the national state of disaster, the deterioration has been rapid and severe and it has caused a large number of resignations and defaults.”

The council said less than half of the high court chambers which used to house the majority of advocates practising in Pretoria were occupied and the society was owed in excess of R8.5m by members and previous members.

“The financial burden on the remaining members is unsustainable.”

Going forward, its is hoping to implement a group-based system in which the groups took full responsibility for the administration of their members, staff, expenses and rent with effect from May 31.

“The financial position of the society itself, however, reached a stage where the majority of the Bar Council was convinced that there was no choice but to take the resolution to apply for provisional liquidation, as it does not have a reasonable prospect of being able to pay all its expenses when they fall due, unless agreement can be reached with the landlord of High Court Chambers,” read the statement.

“The representatives of the Advocated for Transformation on the Bar Council did not support the resolution and viewed it as premature.”

The council will meet on Tuesday evening to discuss the application and practical consequences and the implementation of the resolution.

HeraldLIVE reported earlier this week that the financial effect of the lockdown on legal practitioners has been devastating, with many fearful that they would never bounce back, even once the lockdown restrictions were lifted.

Some advocates and attorneys in the Eastern Cape told the publication it was costing more to keep their doors open under lockdown.

Attorney Zolile Ngqeza, who opened his practice in Port Elizabeth in 2007, said it had been the most challenging time of his entire career.

“I am struggling along with everyone else,” said Ngqeza, who has represented the likes of Luthando Siyoni, one of the men implicated in the contract killing of teacher Jayde Panaiotou.

He said his staff of five were on rotation and no longer worked five days a week.

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