The Latin phrase pro bono publico (pro bono) means “for the public good”. It refers to professional services undertaken voluntarily and without a fee as a public service for individuals or causes of humble means.
As a leading South African corporate and commercial law firm, Werksmans Attorneys recognises our responsibility to the larger community. In particular, we appreciate the need to promote the constitutional imperative of access to justice for all, especially the poor and vulnerable. An important way in which we achieve this is by providing pro bono legal services by our pro bono lawyers.
Werksmans has been involved in providing pro bono services for more than five years. We have a dedicated Public Interest Law team comprising of a director and two full-time attorneys who attend to and coordinate pro bono activities within the firm.
We focus our efforts on matters of public significance that have an impact on the lives of people and the environment. Werksmans has identified the following areas of need which align to the firm’s specialities:
This includes disputes relating to property ownership, tenancy and conveyancing needs.
Matters relate to the exercise of consumer protection measures, and in particular, the Consumer Protection Act and National Credit Act.
Emphasis is on children’s rights to maintenance, to an identity, to protection from violence and to access to education.
Focus includes issues of universal access, disability grants, access to education for children with disabilities, unfair discrimination and advocacy training.
Disputes arising from employment relations and drafting of employment contracts.
Facilitating the exercise of rights relating to the environment including access to water and burial site rights.
Rights to Healthcare
Representation of both non profit organisations and individuals who are being denied access to healthcare.
Access to Justice
Provision of presiding officers in the CCMA and Small Claims Courts to assist in the facilitation of these avenues for access to justice.
Corporate Governance and Risk Management for Non-Profits
Provision of corporate commercial services including the incorporation on non profit companies and charitable trusts and assistance with registration as Public Benefit and Non-Profit Organisations. We also advise on issues of potential risk including public liability and intellectual property protection.
When allocating pro bono work within the firm, we use a pairing process to match a particular cause with an attorney or attorneys who have an affinity with that cause. This ensures that our efforts yield the true benefits of pro bono work for all concerned.
OUR PRO BONO STRATEGY
Broadly speaking, our pro bono strategy involves:
Face to face expertise:Legal Advice clinics are the main component of our pro bono commitment. Our signature project is the Werksmans Consumer Law Clinic, run in conjunction with Afrika Tikkun, in Diepsloot, a township north of Johannesburg. This law clinic is the only one of its kind in the Diepsloot area and provides legal advice on general issues that affect the consumer, including consumer protection under the Consumer Protection Act and National Credit Act, access to services including social grants and identity documents, advice on the understanding of contracts and property related queries.
We also partner with legal clearing house ProBono.Org, with whom Werksmans has worked closely for the past five years and has a Director serving on the organisation’s board.
Our attorneys exclusively staff the Werksmans Consumer Protection Clinic, held weekly at ProBono.Org’s Braamfontein based offices. We also volunteer at the ProBono.Org housing law clinic on a bi-monthly basis and the ProBono.Org Environmental Advice Line. Werksmans participates in the special themed clinics run by ProBono.Org including the Women’s Day Law Clinic and housing Information Day.
Helping those who help others: Werksmans maintains a database of over 50 reputable organisations involved in worthy causes to whom we offer ad hoc legal support. We have assisted in establishing countless organisations, dealing with issues such as relief for victims of landmines, education and mentoring of youth, fundraising for victims of domestic abuse & sexual violence and establishing of water wells and environmental awareness.
Collaborating with public interest law firms: Werksmans enjoys strong working relationships with some of the top organisations active in Public Interest Law in South Africa including ProBono.Org, Section 27, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Treatment Action Campaign and Lawyers V Abuse. We work collaboratively with these entities by providing support and expertise.
Education to facilitate knowledge of and access to the law: We believe in knowledge sharing and, through our experience at our Consumer Protection Law Clinics, understand the dire need for the law to be made more accessible to the general public. Our attorneys have presented on the Consumer Protection Act and National Credit Act for community organisations and published user friendly guides on responsible consumer behaviour, which have featured in several publications.
We have also presented on the Children’s Act and in particular its consequences for children with terminal diseases for the Reach for a Dream Foundation and on Litigation Strategies for People with Disabilities at the Biennial Conference of National Council for People with Physical Disabilities in SA.
Contact Director Harold Jacobs, Head of our Pro Bono practice area.
Download our Pro Bono practice area overview.
Meet the Pro Bono team.
Download our Diepsloot Consumer Law Clinic flyer.
Download the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights, to which Director Louise Bick made contributions for South Africa.
Download our 10 Rs of Consumer Responsibility booklet.