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Corruption, Dignity and Independence of the Legal Profession: The View from Russia, Nigeria and South Africa

Corruption, Dignity and Independence of the Legal Profession: The View from Russia, Nigeria and South Africa (Program)

Olga Shepeleva, Law school of the High School of Economics (Russia); Philip Odiase, Adekunle Ajasin University (Nigeria); Sandra Prinsloo, University of Pretoria Law Clinic (South Africa); Christian Fritz, University of Pretoria Law Clinic (South Africa); and Sarisa van Niekerk, The University of Pretoria (South Africa) (Moderator)

Corruption, Dignity and Independence of the Legal Profession: The View from Russia, Nigeria and South Africa


Olga Shepeleva: Teaching Legal Ethics and Professional Values in Corrupted Environment: Russian Example

The paper using the example of Russian law schools will explore how law schools’ faculty responds to corruption in judicial and law enforcement sphere. It will describe, how Russian academic and professional community see role of legal education, and in particular teaching of professional ethics, in corrupted environment; and what input to fight against corruption is expected from law schools. It will demonstrate approaches of Russian law schools’ teachers to formation of professional identity and values of their students, and describes relevant educational practices. It will also discuss effects of those approaches and practices.

Paper will pay attention not only to pronounced wives and formally recognized educational approaches and practices, but also to approaches and practices which although existing but had not been reflected by the educational community yet.

The author draw her conclusions from empirical study of legal profession and legal education in Russia, conducted in 2011-2013. The study included more than 100 interviews with practicing lawyers and law school students and faculty members. Main conclusions of the study were further tested in discussions within educational and professional community and in course of legal ethics courses.

Philip Odiase: Restoring Dignity to the Legal Profession In Nigeria: The Role of Law Faculties and the Bar

The Nigerian legal system along with the legal profession was imported from England and patterned after the English legal system both in form and substance. In the years preceding and immediately after independence, the standard of practice was high, particularly due to the prevalence and influence of English lawyers and judges in the country who endeavored to maintain the ideals of the profession. Most unfortunately in contemporary Nigeria, the ethical standards of the profession have changed for the worse. One major reason for this dwindling standard is that the legal profession cannot be isolated from other facets of life in the country and has also been afflicted and ravaged by the same destructive societal virus that has eaten deeply into the fabric of the society. Despite this, the legal profession is still looked upon as the single agent for positive change and social development. However, in order to perform this role, it requires functional, competent and ethical driven lawyers to midwife the progress. Thus, both the bar and law faculties in the country have roles to play. Regrettably, professional ethics as a course is not taught by faculties of law in Nigerian Universities. The paper argues that proper legal education is the most veritable tool in equipping lawyers for this task, coupled with continuing legal education to be provided by the Bar.

Christian Fritz: Over-Regulation: Is the Independence of the Legal Profession and Judiciary Under Threat?

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa is the supreme law and ensures that each and every person in the Republic, including the government, act in accordance with the provisions thereof. The Constitution ensures judicial independence and requires actions by courts to be without fear or favor while protecting the best interest of the public. The judiciary must ensure that it performs its constitutional duty at all times and adhere to the rule of law.

The preservation of the rule of law and independence of the judiciary relies heavily on an independent and effective legal profession. An independent legal profession serves as insurance that the rights afforded to the public as a whole, as enshrined in the Constitution, is given effect to. The judiciary can only perform its constitutional duty effectively with the assistance of an independent legal profession, where there is a legal representative who at all times act not only in the best interest of their clients but also that of the general public. The Legal Practice Act, which recently came into operation after much controversy, is an attempt to regulate the legal profession in every aspect possible. It seems that this Act will have the undesired effect of over-regulating the legal profession and that there will be a domino effect once the independence of the legal profession is under threat. Will legal representatives be able to act in the best interest of their clients or general public when the legal profession is over-regulated? What threat will over-regulation of the legal profession have on ethical values of legal representatives and the independence of the judiciary in their effort to uphold the rule of law and perform their constitutional duty?

This paper will consider the possible effect and consequences which over-regulation of the legal profession might have on the legal profession itself, the public and the judiciary. It further considers the threat, over-regulation of the legal profession poses to the independence of the legal profession and the judiciary. Lastly, it will illustrate the possible consequences over-regulation may have on the profession, such as the deterioration of ethical and constitutional values as well as other means to uphold these values without over-regulation.

Sarisa van Niekerk and Frederik Thomas De Ridder: The Role of Codified-Ethics in Shaping Legal Culture and the Conduct of Lawyers in their Service to the Public

“The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers” is a line stated by a character in Shakespeare’s play, King Henry VI, that has often been misinterpreted as depicting ordinary people’s perceptions of lawyers and the legal profession as being unethical, immoral, deceptive and expensive, to name a few examples. The character, Dick the Butcher, who uttered the statement, was a follower of a rebel, Jack Cade, who thought that he could become king by disturbing law and order by getting rid of those who instil justice in society. Contrary to popular belief, Shakespeare intended to praise lawyers and the role they play as guardians of justice and the Rule of Law in society. Regardless, however, of whether one agrees with Shakespeare or not - there are lawyers, and there are lawyers.

This paper seeks to look at the role that lawyers and the Law play in society by attempting to define what a lawyer is. It also explores different prejudices and complaints that have developed about lawyers and suggests how it can possibly be resolved. We will also look at the manner in which legal design can regulate the conduct of lawyers in their service to the public and how this influences legal culture.

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