The Southern African Legal Assistance network (SALAN has set itself to advocate for Paralegals as a Profession in Southern African Region.
In SADC region paralegal is not a profession. For a person to have legal access she/he has to hire a lawyer (private advocate) whose fees are very high. Alternatively, a poor person can visit a nearby legal aid clinic (if any). However, there are very few legal aid clinics in Southern Africa. Very few lawyers are there to represent clients let alone the issue of fees.
Paralegals can be very useful to work among communities to assist poor people to access justice. A Paralegal can be defined as:
‘A non-lawyer possessing the relevant skills and training to provide legal advice and assistance applicable to the People s/he is serving.’1
Paralegals are engaged and active within the communities within which they live and work and that with a basic level of knowledge and skills they are able to assist and direct people in relation to the law. Their activities include informing detainees and communities about their rights, to drafting simple legal document or representing clients before quasi-judicial bodies.
The main Objective which SALAN has in this advocacy is to ensure
- 1. Paralegalism to be recognized as a profession
- 2. SADC Countries to enact laws recognizing Paralegals
Paralegals to be allowed to represent clients in Courts from lower courts (Primary Courts, Ward Tribunals, District and Regional/Resident Magistrates’ Courts) for five years and then Higher Courts
1. An agreed definition of Paralegals from An African Conference on Access to Justice, held in Kigali Rwanda on 1-4 December, 2008 facilitated by East African Law Society