The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) has emerged victorious from a court battle against Proxi Smart, which had promised a David versus Goliath scenario.
New kid on the block, Proxi Smart, had sent the South African legal fraternity into panic mode with a plan to snatch from lawyers a significant portion of conveyancing work. Proxi Smart move was branded as an Uber like intervention due to its threat to disturb a tradition.
The LSSA was represented by Advocate Ish Semenya SC and Advocate Allen Liversage SC, instructed by Maponya Attorneys. The other thirteen respondents in the matter were the Chief Registrar of Deeds; Roger Dixon; the Justice Minister; the Attorneys Fidelity Fund; the four statutory provincial law societies; the National Association of Democratic Lawyers; the Back Lawyers Association; the Black Conveyancers Association; the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform and the National Forum on the Legal Profession.
Proxi Smart had come up with a newish business model that wants to re-designate a significant portion of conveyancing work as ‘non reserved’ work that can be done outside a law firm by non-lawyers. In this model lawyers will come in at certain intervals and at the tail end as overseers.
Proxi Smart is a non-law firm that specialises in “administrative tasks associated with property conveyancing.” Such tasks include mainly the collation of information required in property conveyancing using software that interfaces with a partnering law firm. This was positioned as making things easier for lawyers who will only focus on ‘reserved’ work. But the LSSA objected.
The LSSA argued that Proxi Smart’s attempt at creating a distinction between ‘reserved work’ and ‘non-reserved work’ had no basis in law, and that the full conveyancing process is regarded as professional work performed by conveyancers – who are regulated by the statutory, provincial law societies. This should remain so in the interest of the public’, say LSSA Co-Chairpersons Ettienne Barnard and Mvuzo Notyesi.
The matter was first heard in the Johannesburg High Court on 6 and 7 February 2018 where judgment was reserved.
“This judgement reaffirms the specialised skill involved in the conveyancing process”, said Notyesi and Barnard.