Free access to legal resources for small law firms

CENTURION Pretoria, South Africa, 14 April 2020. Over the past year, Sabinet has committed more than R6 million in sponsorships to several initiatives in a bid to uplift and support law students and members of the legal profession.

As a local leader in facilitating access to credible information sources, Sabinet has an ongoing commitment to developing South Africa’s knowledge economy by supporting legal professionals with access to the information they need to build a sustainable practice. In light of recent events and with the imposition of a nationwide lockdown, it is worth noting that Sabinet’s stance is unchanged. We remain committed.

“Because of our pivotal position in the industry, we feel that we have an important role to play in ensuring the continued development of the legal sector, particularly in those communities with a shortage of attorneys”, says Rosalind Hattingh, Sabinet’s managing director. “We do this by providing access to free legal information as well as technical support.”

Sabinet sponsored three key initiatives that span the journey of the attorney from learning to practice.

Empowering attorneys via the Attorneys Development Fund

Sole practitioners, specialised law practices and rural law firms who are beneficiaries of the Attorneys Development Fund (ADF) received relevant, accurate and up-to-date online legal resources through Sabinet’s sponsorship. These resources included Sabinet National Legislation, Sabinet South African Gazettes and Sabinet Labour. Sabinet’s National Legislation Mobile App was also made available to these beneficiaries – allowing them access to legislation on the move, offline and outside the office. By providing product support, Sabinet assisted these attorneys in growing their firm’s knowledge base. Training programmes helped them understand the Sabinet products and offerings, as well as the key fundamentals of legislative research for the purposes of their law practices.

Extending an indispensable commitment to universities

South Africa’s universities have the mammoth task of readying our country’s students for the roles they will fulfil as professionals. As a result, it is important for Sabinet to provide these institutions with the very best, accurate and reliable resources possible. With Covid-19 keeping everyone at home and away from public spaces, universities now face new challenges like they’ve never had to face before.

Sabinet has focused on enabling universities to access the resources necessary to train students in various industries and professions via its more than R1.5 million in sponsorship this past year alone. With in-person access to university resources being restricted as a result of the pandemic, the fact that students can access these training resources remotely is a great advantage.

“We assist these institutions to expose their students to skills and tools that will be essential in their future work environments,” explains Hattingh. “In fact, since 2005 we have sponsored 19 universities with law faculties with free access to our National Legislation product – NetLaw.”

Impacting small law firms and the communities they practice in

While we may have more than 25 000 attorneys in the country, most them are self-employed or working in small law firms. And as the cost of doing business is growing more quickly all the time, the support needed to run a small practice shouldn’t be underestimated. Supporting attorneys in their efforts to run small businesses has a positive effect in more ways than one.

“We are very aware that the impact of the support we’re able to provide to small, less advantaged law firms runs deeper than to just being able to help a business remain sustainable,” says Hattingh.

COVID-19 has brought to light just how important sustainable business is. Allowing our client base access to important resources during this lockdown affords them with the opportunity to reduce downtime which might prove detrimental to their business.

Further, we acknowledge that the community served by these attorneys forms another critical element to consider in this ecosystem. This is important, because it is these small firms around the country serve many local communities requiring legal assistance. If the pandemic were to shut these cornerstones of legal importance down, these communities would be disadvantaged as a result. “This is why Sabinet’s R3.6 million in sponsorship of free access to Sabinet’s NetLaw to small law firms is so valuable,” concludes Hattingh. “We not only assist them with access to up-to-date legislation but through this sponsorship we also assist to uplift the communities that they serve.”

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