A strategic partnership between UKZN’s Law Clinic and Legal Aid South Africa has made it possible for the Clinic to increase capacity thus ensuring that it is adequately equipped to provide legal assistance to the community. Since the commencement of the funding the Clinic has almost doubled its client intake.
Legal Aid SA is funding a supervising attorney for three years to mentor the Clinic’s candidate attorneys thereby enhancing their legal skills in dealing with actual cases. For now funding is also provided for a legal secretary and three candidate attorneys as well as certain running costs.
Some of the matters handled by the Clinic include divorce, unlawful evictions, contractual and estate matters, debt, employment issues, housing and family matters. Jurisdiction in terms of the magistrate courts are namely, Durban, Pinetown, Umlazi, Chatsworth and Wentworth. The Clinic is also fortunate and appreciative of the fact that in certain matters we are often assisted by the Society of Advocates of KwaXulu-Natal on a pro bono basis. This obviously enhances the quality of the service rendered to the indigent public.
Advising and informing the community of their rights is another function carried out especially through the work done by the UKZN Clinical Law students. To make people aware of its services, the clinic has embarked on a marketing campaign through displaying posters, informing the public of their services at various courts.
Supervising attorney, Mr Lionel Soupen said that the Clinic is the main source of legal information for the public however if a matter falls out of their jurisdiction they refer clients to other organisations that will be able to assist.
‘Before we meet with a client, we offer them a pre-consultation form to evaluate if they meet the criteria. If they qualify, they meet with the candidate attorney who then offers them legal assistance. In the last quarter we closed 54 cases out of 160. We also get referrals from the court which shows that people are aware of our services,’ said Mr Soupen.
The Clinic’s Principal Attorney Mr Eben van der Merwe (currently the Acting Director) said the agreement makes it possible for cases to be finalised quickly and effectively.
‘Having a supervising attorney ensures that the four candidate attorneys that we have at the moment are prepared to consult with clients through providing them with interviewing skills which they will need in the legal profession. It also ensures that we can double capacity as we usually only take two candidate attorneys this means that we are able to get through double the cases,’ he said.