Being an advocate himself, transformation of the Advocate’s profession and the legal profession as a whole is something which is close to the heart of our founder, Don Mahon. Here are some of our specific projects dealing with this issue.
ASSISTANCE TO HISTORICALLY DISADVANTAGED ADVOCATES
In order to become a practising member of the Johannesburg Bar, one has to undergo a period of pupillage where you basically fulfil the role of an apprentice to an assigned mentor, who is already a practising advocate. This period of pupillage subsists for a year and is undertaken for no compensation whatsoever, so it is already a huge barrier to entry and for those who cannot afford to work for a year for no pay (a state of affairs which affects the historically disadvantaged the most), you are immediately excluded.
During the one-year period the pupil will shadow his or her mentor and, at least in theory, be exposed to all the work which he or she does and be exposed to the attorneys that brief him or her. The pupil will then write the bar exams and join one of the groups of advocates, where he or she will be given office space and a telephone. It is an enormously difficult situation in which to find yourself because you are now on your own, competing with your colleagues for a limited pool of work that is available to junior advocates.
And so the opportunity to build a network of attorneys that will brief pupil advocates in matters that allow them to progress in a particular field is, in our view, the key to success at the bar.
In order to address this hardship, the Mahon Foundation has implemented a number of initiatives.
Johannesburg Bar Pupillage Bursary Programme
The Mahon Foundation has made regular contributions to the Johannesburg Society of Advocate’s Pupilage bursary fund in order to enable pupils to undergo their training.
Briefing Facilitation Initiative
One of the biggest obstacles for a junior advocate is obtaining exposure to quality work, most commonly in the form of junior briefs (where the advocate is briefed as part of a team of one or more senior advocates) which enable him or her to develop and sustain his or her practice.
This obstacle is even more significant in the case of advocates who are historically disadvantaged, given the unhappy legacy of skewed briefing patterns, left to us by our history.
To address this state of affairs, the Mahon Foundation routinely earmarks funds to facilitate the briefing of historically disadvantaged junior advocates. We accept applications from any part of this legal supply chain, whether it comes from a prospective junior member of the team, from the leading or senior advocate on the team, from the instructing attorney or from the client.
Successful applicants will have their fees paid for by the Mahon Foundation. It is our hope that this will facilitate the inclusion of historically disadvantaged advocates on legal teams, with the concomitant exposure to quality work and the opportunity to demonstrate his or her abilities to the client and to the instructing attorney.
Although this is a mere drop in the ocean, we hope that this will assist in addressing the scourge of skewed briefing patterns which presently favour white males in the advocate’s profession.
Using this initiative, we have been able to include numerous historically disadvantaged junior advocates on matters of complexity, allowing them to hone their skills, gain legal experience, demonstrate their capabilities and break into existing networks in the legal profession.
The initial years of practice for any advocate can be daunting. Building a stable and steady practice takes time and the financial burden during this difficult period can be overwhelming. We, therefore, endeavour to assist where we can by making funds available to applicants to assist them in meeting their financial obligations to the bar council and to their groups.
LLB Bursary Initiative
The Mahon Foundation has created a bursary to assist historically disadvantaged university students pursuing their LLB degree at Rhodes University