South Africa has a population of about 50m people. Of this, only a minute fraction are legal professionals; too few to meet the justice needs of so many. Arguably, even if we had more legally trained professionals in this country, escalating legal costs would still make access to justice something of a pipe dream.
How then do we address the challenge of making justice accessible to all? Is the latter aspiration just my own personal pipe dream? I want people in this country to know the law, how it protects them and how it sanctions against certain behaviours. I want, as an example, the terrified beauty therapist (who is resigning from her job with a national beauty salon brand) to know that the restraint of trade in her employment contract is not worth the paper it is written on and that nothing prevents her from opening her own salon. She should know this without having to consult a lawyer. In fact doing a bit of research on the internet will help her to understand this better; and even if she does need a lawyer, at least she will be able to engage him/her on an informed basis. She will be able to get to the crux of the matter, reducing face-time with the lawyer (and costs), and deal only with critical issues. If she is au fait with her matter, she will be able to ask several lawyers for a proposal to represent her, ensuring that she gets the best possible deal for herself.
The point I am making is that we need to take the law into our own hands, so to speak. Of course, I am not promoting vigilantism; I am, however, trying to promote a culture where we all, whether as individuals or small business owners etc., make a concerted effort to know as much as we can about the law and what our rights and obligations are, to know what avenues we have for redress if anything does go awry, and to always work from the basis of substantive legal knowledge.
First things first: we cannot kill the lawyers and we cannot do away with the lawyers. I’ve already established that the ratio of lawyers to South Africans is frighteningly low, and that even if we had more lawyers, many would still not be able to access these services because the costs would be too high. It is for this reason, in part, that we have created this site, which is meant to be a repository of legal agreements, legal articles, legislation, legal podcasts, videos, legal e-learning and so on. We want this to be your one-stop shop for all your legal needs. What this means is that, you, the consumer must engage with the material on this website to make yourself au fait with your particular legal matter.
This website is still in its infancy and we are slowly, but steadily building up resources to help you understand the law. In the interim, we advise that you use the internet to find those legal resources currently available to educate yourself.
We are also building up a directory of legal practitioners who are able to consult remotely (for the greater part) resulting in a cost saving for you, the consumer. To make justice accessible to all, we anticipate that:
- there will be some legal documents that people will be able to prepare for themselves, along with some legal matters for which they will be able to represent themselves, if they have the applicable legal resources (which this website aims to make available);
- there will be some legal documents that people will be able to prepare for themselves, and some legal matters for which they will be able to represent themselves. However, even if they have the applicable legal resources, they may still need some legal input;
- along with the necessary legal documents, legal representation will be needed, due to the complexity of the matter. It is for this reason, and the one above, that we are building the aforementioned legal directory. In the interim SITL Legal (www.sitllegal.co.za) is one legal consultancy that offers virtual legal services.
Know however, that even with lawyers willing to consult at discounted rates, there are still too few to meet the legal needs of everyone. Therefore, it must be reiterated that we need to start getting more educated about our legal rights and obligations in every conceivable way.
This site is here to help you on that journey.