How Paralegals Used to Be Viewed in South Africa
How paralegals used to be viewed in South Africa has changed over the years. However, the role of paralegals in the legal profession still remains in question in the country. Paralegals from Namibia and Zimbabwe shared their experiences in these two countries at a recent conference. It was discussed that it was necessary to reform the training of lawyers. The new training standards would help lawyers be more sensitive to the needs of communities.
While lawyers are the standard bearers for legal advice, paralegals are more affordable and accessible than lawyers. Increasingly, paralegals are helping marginalised people engage with the authorities and in the early stages of the criminal justice process. Despite the fact that paralegals are often overlooked, their role is essential in criminal justice. In South Africa, there are two statutory bodies mandated to look into the legal recognition of paralegals.
Community Paralegals: These offices serve as grassroots advocates who act as the first responders to injustices in their communities. Community paralegals were instrumental in South Africa’s resistance to apartheid. They also address the civil and criminal justice issues of their local communities. Community paralegals help those who might not otherwise have legal assistance by helping them.
Although the current Legal Aid Bill does not prohibit independent legal aid providers, it does not regulate them. The future role of existing paralegal coordination structures could be uncertain. This legislation has been welcomed by civil society groups, NGOs, such as AALA, ABA, and the Association of Paralegals. It is essential for South Africa to improve the legal status of paralegals, and the future of the profession.
Access to legal aid is not an option for many Africans. Many citizens do not have enough money to pay for the services of a lawyer. The cost of legal services is prohibitive, and many jurisdictions lack adequate numbers of lawyers to serve the needs of their citizens. Paralegals are crucial to access justice and play an important role in providing legal aid and assistance.
Paralegals are an integral part of the legal system. However, they have not been officially recognized by the international community. While the international community has tried to formalise the role of paralegals, their status is still unrecognised by the South African Bar. As a result, they continue to struggle to gain recognition. In South Africa, paralegals are not formally recognised as lawyers, but as paralegals, they are still viewed as professionals.