In a memo written to members on February 28 2012, the organisation’s executive secretary Edward Mapara said the LSZ was worried by the amount of “unprofessional and dishonourable conduct allegedly committed by legal practitioners”.
The unprofessional conduct ranged from touting for work, undercutting, and shameful behaviour of sharing proceeds of the practice with non-legal practitioners.
“Some of the conduct complained of is outright corrupt and criminal. I believe the majority among our members are law-abiding and honourable but the increase in the complaints is a serious concern and we need to collectively address it,” wrote Mapara.
He said according to information he had received, some conveyancers were soliciting for work from financial institutions.
“Soliciting or touting is dishonourable and unprofessional conduct in terms of Section 23 of the Legal Practitioners Act. Lawyers are not allowed at law to tout or solicit for work, period. It is dishonourable conduct and should be stopped…. This form of aggressive brazen marketing has no place in the legal fraternity under the current laws. It should accordingly be stopped. This circular should serve as a stern warning to all those engaging in this untoward behaviour tocease forthwith. This circular is also an encouragement to victims of this practice to please come forward,” reads the letter.
On undercutting, Mapara reminded the lawyers that they were bound to charge for their services as per the LSZ general tariff and the conveyancing tariff.
“The last gazetted tariff for conveyancing is 148/2006, the EGM of 2009 resolved to adopt a new tariff which was (by resolution of EGM) applicable immediately (notwithstanding date of gazetting) as it reduced the percentages chargeable. Some members have ignored both the gazetted tariff and the new EGM recommended tariff. Such acts violate the legal practitioners.”
He warned lawyers that sharing of proceeds of their legal practice with a non-legal practitioner was a serious misconduct.
“The secretary has repeatedly been informed that some lawyers are not content with the shameful acts of soliciting for work. They go further to share proceeds of their work with non-lawyers by way of illegal “commissions” or plain bribes to those who award work to their firms.”
On other unethical conveyancing practices, Mapara said some practitioners have “also fallen foul of rules by either recklessly releasing purchase prices prior to transfer without proper due diligence and or written and informed consent/indemnity of their clients while others have allowed their offices, names or official stamps to be used for fraudulent ends”.
Mapara warned that the LSZ was not going to just watch what was going on but investigate and deal promptly with all complaints.