A new statutory body that will regulate advocates and attorneys will be in place by November 1, justice and correctional services minister Michael Masutha announced on Tuesday.

In 2014, then president Jacob Zuma signed the Legal Practice Bill into law, which paved the way for the establishment of the Legal Practice Council. This meant that all lawyers — both advocates and attorneys — would fall under a single regulatory body for the first time. According to the justice department, the implementation of the act will regulate all legal practitioners, candidate legal practitioners and juristic entities for the first time in the history of SA.

Masutha said that the Legal Practice Council replaces the four statutory provincial law societies, which have, to date, fulfilled the dual purpose of regulating and representing attorneys.

"Advocates and attorneys will now be regulated by the Legal Practice Council. Bar associations will no longer have the responsibility to regulate the profession. They can, however, continue to exist as voluntary associations to advance any non-statutory interests of the profession," he said.

Masutha outlined the process that would be followed in the appointment of the new council. "The Legal Practice Act requires that the council reflects the country’s gender and racial demographics in all its structures. This excludes racial representativity with respect to advocates as there are not enough advocates in all the provinces."

The Legal Practice Council is "an important milestone in the transformation of the legal profession," said Masutha. Among other things, it will pave the way for the establishment of community service through which aspirant and serving legal practitioners will be required to perform community service to increase access to justice; the enhancement of the accountability arrangements of the legal profession through the establishment of the legal service ombud; and transform the dispensation for the conferral of senior counsel status or silk status through the creation of a transparent nomination process, which is based on the expertise and experience of legal practitioners.

The Law Society of SA has previously welcomed the signing of the Legal Practice Bill into law saying it would usher in a transparent, transformed, public-centred and responsive profession, changes the profession has long supported.