A Discussion Document: Recognition and Regulation of the CAO Sector

1. This paper will deal with three issues:

  • the regulation and governance of the CAO sector;
  • the recognition of community-based paralegals who work at CAOs; and
  • an appropriate and sustainable funding model for CAOs.

2. The recognition of paralegals has been on the Government’s agenda since the late 1990’s, particularly since the adoption by the DOJ&CD of Justice Vision 2000 and has received much attention during the drafting process of the Legal Practice Bill ultimately assented into law as Legal Practice Act No.28 of 2014 (“Legal Practice Act, 2014”). However, the intent to deal with the community-based paralegals (and paralegals more generally) did not succeed in 2014 and is now explored comprehensively from a policy perspective. While the issue of regulating the paralegal sector more broadly is important, this Paper intentionally focuses exclusively on the CAO sector and community-based paralegals employed within this sector. The question of the recognition of paralegals generally is therefore beyond the scope of this paper.

3. The discussion on the regulation of a CAO sector, the recognition of community-based paralegals, and the financial sustainability of CAOs should be understood against the following context, which demonstrates that CAOs fill a gap in promoting access to justice in South Africa:

  • Poverty, unemployment and inequality are a direct legacy of apartheid and remain an existential threat to South Africa’s democracy. Promoting access to justice is an essential mechanism to address poverty eradication and human development.
  • The right to know one’s constitutional rights is acknowledged as not being enjoyed equally by all the peoples of South Africa. More than twenty-nine thousand attorneys and advocates who have been admitted to the legal profession serve a population of more than 57 million, charge fees exceeding the financial means of majority of South Africans and operate predominantly in urban areas. This impacts on the most marginalized and results in a lack of access to justice for individuals from remote, rural or peri-urban areas.

4. CAO Governing Body

A national CAO statutory body established by a legislative act and responsible for regulating and representing CAOs and community-based paralegals as mandated by the legislation. The governing body (e.g. Council) might be composed of representatives coming from among the CAO sector, community-based paralegals, local and national government, legal professional bodies, or other relevant statutory bodies (e.g. LASA ). For a more detailed analysis on the possible composition of a CAO governing body see Section 8.2.

5. CAO Governing Structure

Whenever this document uses the term ’CAO governing structure’ it refers to a CAO governing body as well as its subsidiary regional and local governing structures established in accordance with a principle of decentralisation. Depending on the governance model adopted, it may also refer to CAO accredited organisations.

6. Accredited Organisation

An accredited organisation is an organisation that has successfully undergone a certification process by the CAO governing body and has the necessary competences to perform training or governance functions (e.g. acting as a CAO governing body’s decentralized agency) as delegated by the CAO governing body.

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