PALSA

(Paralegal Association of SA)

Code of Conduct

Professional and Ethical Requirements

This document serves as an interim CODE OF CONDUCT until such time as extensive research and input can be completed and received from the Paralegal world, at which time input from various regulatory bodies as well as the Association will of course be included, with the Judiciary criteria in
mind as well. An extensive and detailed CODE OF CONDUCT will then be finalised (within the next year), with the aim of it being on the same level as all other required Judiciary Codes of Conduct and Ethics, while being specific to the Paralegal, Legal Secretary and Professional Assistants field.

The purpose of this document is to, at this time, provide a simple and yet definitive set of regulations and standards, by which all who have signed up with PALSA, will be required to strictly adhere to, at all times.

Palsa
Code of Conduct

Professional and Ethical Requirements

DEFINITIONS

 

PALSA PARALEGAL ASSOCIATION OF SOUTH AFRICA

PARALEGAL A PERSON WHO HAS QUALIFIED AS A PARALEGAL, OR A PERSON WHO HAS, THROUGH EXPERIENCE AND PRIOR LEARNING, ATTAINED THE SAME STATUS AS A PARALEGAL.

LEGAL SECRETARY AS FOR PARALEGAL

PROFESSIONAL LEGAL AS FOR PARALEGAL

ASSISTANT

CLIENT ANY PERSON WHOM YOU ASSIST, OR FOR WHOM YOU PROVIDE A PROFESSIONAL SERVICE, WITHIN YOUR FIELD OF EXPERTISE.

 

CONFIDENTIALITY A STRICT ADHERENCE TO RETAINING YOUR CLIENT’S, AND ALL RELATED INFORMATION, AS CONFIDENTIAL AT ALL TIMES IN ALL REGARDS.

JUDICIARY ANY AND ALL REPRESENTATIVE BODIES AND REGULATORY BODIES OF THE LAW AND OF GOVERNMENT.

LAW SOCIETY THE PROFESSIONAL BODY CONTROLLING AND REGULATING ATTORNEYS, BOTH NATIONALLY AND PROVINICALLY.

GENERAL COUNCIL OF THE PROFESSIONAL BODY CONTROLLING AND REGULATING ADVOCATES

THE BAR BOTH NATIONALLY AND PROVINCIALLY.

 

RULES AS SET OUT BY PALSA AS WELL AS ALL RELEVANT LAWS AND ACTS.

PROFESSIONAL ANY PERSON WHO HAS EITHER BY VIRTUE OF QUALIFIED STUDIES OR RELEVANT PRIOR LEARNING AND EXPERIENCED GAINED A PROVEN AND ACCREDITED POSITION WITHIN THEIR FIELD(S)

MEDIATOR A PERSON WHO ATTEMPTS TO BRING PEOPLE IN A CONFLICT INTO A MUTUALLY AGREABLE RESOLUTION.

CONSTITUTION THE CONSTITUTION OF SOUTH AFRICA.

COMPETENT HAVING THE NECESSARY KNOWLEDGE AND SKILL TO PROPERLY, AND SUITABLY, PERFORM AS REQUIRED IN ONE’S FIELD.

 

CONFLICT OF INTEREST WHERE A PERSONAL INTEREST WILL BE GAINED OR A SITUATION JEOPARDISED BY A PERSON ACTING FOR, OR IN A MANNER OF OR AGAINST, A PARTY.

JOINT RETAINER WHERE MORE THAN ONE PERSON WILL BE REMUNERATED FROM THE SAME MATTER.

FEES THE REMUNERATION OF ONE’S SERVICES ACCORDING TO A SET PRIOR AGREED ON AMOUNT(S) TO BE PAID BY THE CLIENT(S), OR AS AGREED RECEIVED THROUGH ANY OTHER LAWFULLY ACCEPTABLE SOURCE.

 

SERVICES THE FUNCTION, DOING AND WORK PERFORMED WITHIN YOUR FIELD FOR A CLIENT

MARKETING THE PROMOTION OF YOUR BUSINESS AND SERVICES THROUGH VARIOUS ACCEPTED MEANS.

 

RULES

As a PALSA PARALEGAL MEMBER you will agree to and adhere completely to the following: –

 

  1. Ensure that before proceeding with a matter, unless where a case of urgency or logistics does not allow it to immediately be so, to have your client sign an appointment of services (Mandate) along with any requirements or noted information you wish the client to be aware of. Included, an acceptance of fees schedule, which will be presented in a hard copy and / or email format to the client for their perusal and due consideration.
  1. Where asked to assist in a labour related matter, ensure that you timeously notify the employer and / or a union official, should there be a union involved.
  1. To preform your services to the best of your ability and in the client’s best interest at all times.
  1. At all times representing your client in a diligent, honest, transparent, ethical and cost-effective manner.
  1. To offer your services within the field(s) of law you have knowledge and experience in and are competent to act within. Should you not be able to do so, you are required to either decline offering your service to the client, or alternatively contact PALSA for guidance and assistance.
  1. To perform research and analyse to the best of your ability and within all the required aspects of the law, including to look at any aspects other than direct law which could also assist your client’s case, i.e. regulatory bodies, ombudsman offices etc.
  1. At every opportunity consider where possible a way exists to resolve an issue through negotiation, mediation or alternative dispute resolution, with the goal of obtaining a fair and reasonable settlement for all parties. Making problem solving your focus. Attain your objective in the best and most efficient way possible. Also encouraging the client to consider and attain this objective when and where possible and in all parties interest.
  1. Apply yourself fully to the writing of reports, drafting of documents, filing and service requirements. Being mindful and ensuring that all court rules and required time-frames are always met.
  1. Ensure that at all times you regularly communicate with your client, keeping your client abreast of any and all developments. INCLUDE your client(s) in the matter and the decision-making process. Report back as soon as possible on receiving any information.
  1. Return calls and / or reply to all communication received in a timeous and professional manner. If for any reason there is a delay in doing so, explain the reason to your client and/or any other party involved.  Apologise for the delay and rectify the situation as soon as is possible.
  1. Complete all required tasks within an efficient and timeous manner, ensuring that the requirements of para (8) above are met at all times.
  1. For employed Legal personnel, familiarise yourself with your employer’s company rules and requirements and follow them accordingly.
  1. For Independent Paralegals, take all care to manage and run your practice and your staff in an efficient, organised and professional manner at all times.
  1. Apply discernment, wisdom and sound judgement at all times in all regards.
  1. Ensure that you are up to date with the Law and all the amendments, changes in Acts, new Acts and other such legalities, and related information, that are applicable to your field(s) at all times.
  1. Maintain a professional, ethical, transparent and morally sound position with your clients, fellow legal practioners and the courts, as well as any other judicial and / or regulatory body you have dealings with. The same applies where you engage with any member of the public, press, government, retail or corporate sectors.
  1. At no time abuse your relationship with your client with a view to misusing your fees, or the ability to charge them, in any way that could be considered as unjust enrichment.
  1. At all times maintaining a diligent, honest and transparent professional standing in regard to any trusts or trust fund money, any entrusted assets or funds on behalf of a client, community or organisation at all times.
  1. Where retained by any corporation, organisation, NGO, group of people etc. ensure that you abide by the lawful requirements and/or of that institution or organisation at all times.
  1. At no stage in any way attempt to apply influence or pressure on a client so as to influence them to take action in any regard that is not to their benefit, or that is to their detriment at another’s gain.
  1. Where your client is of diminished capacity in any way, only proceed with the express appointment and consent of the person(s)/entity legally responsible for said client and / or where a court has appointed a competent person to act on behalf of the said client. Ensure that you are clear and precise on the situation and the requirements of such a matter at all times, keeping the incapacitated person’s interests paramount at all times.
  1. Maintain a STRICT CODE OF CONFIDENTIALITY and professionalism at all times, in all regards and in every way. Should a situation arise where you find yourself compromised for any reason or you are exposed to any illegal activity, you are obliged to notify PALSA (in writing) with immediate effect.   You will receive the necessary instruction from PALSA on how to proceed.
  1. In the event of your committing an error or omission in any regard, you are to without fail, and as soon as you are aware of the situation, immediately correct the situation to the best of your ability. Simultaneously immediately report the matter (in writing) to PALSA. Should you not be sure as to how to resolve/correct the issue to the best professional outcome, you are required to request (in writing) assistance from PALSA.
  1. In all ways possible ensure that Simple Language is applied.
  1. When and where possible use the official language of your client. Where a translator is required ensure that a professional and ethically sound interpreter’s services are utilised. If not possible ensure that your client is in full understanding of the matter and the proceedings at all times.
  1. At no stage engage in a situation that will cause a Conflict of Interest for your client or yourself. Should you be unsure if there might be a Conflict of Interest in a matter you are to defer to PALSA for a decision.
  1. In retaining the services of an Attorney, or any other party, on behalf of your client which results in a “joint retainer”, ensure that you clearly and concisely set down the terms and conditions and the grounds for the joint retainer, in writing to signed by all parties.  The same applies to any fees due or due to be “shared”. Should you be unclear as to how to proceed in such a situation, or feel uncomfortable with any situation, you are to defer the matter to PALSA for a decision. The best procedure to follow would be: –
  1. Discuss and agree on terms & conditions and fees, right of appearance, assistance etc.
  2. Where necessary consult with your client in regard to this
  3. Reduce same to writing signed by the parties
  4. Brief the “other” party and “share” documents where necessary, without and without breaking any conduct rules.
  5. If for any reason you cannot, or are requested not to, be party to the process after this stage and you agree and consent to this (only in the best interest of your client), ensure that you have a strict reporting structure in place from the appointed Attorney/Advocate. Continue to still instruct third party on behalf of your client, advise third party accordingly.
  1. Notify your client of para (v) above and take their instruction if and where necessary in this regard.
  1. In the event of your needing to receive a property or an asset on behalf of a client, or act in regard to an asset or property for and / or on behalf of a client or group, ensure that you have the proper signed paperwork, securities agreements and or guarantees in place before proceeding with the matter.
  1. You may only withdraw your services from a client in the event of any one of the following reasons listed below; –
  1. Ill health
  2. Family Emergency
  3. Breach by your client
  4. Non-payment with no rectification from your client
  5. An undisputed moral issue
  6. Any illegal activity or possible activity you are not comfortable with
  7. A conflict of interest
  8. Your client has expressed a dissatisfaction with your services and in spite of your best effort, you were not able to resolve the matter.
  9. Your client or any situation related or in regard to your matter has committed an act such that it severely jeopardizes and / or effects the standing of the matter in such a way that you are unable to remedy.
  1. In the event of non-payment of your account and which non-payment is not rectified within a prescribed time frame by your client(s), you are entitled to hold onto the client’s file and or any other documents until such time as the account is settled or a suitable and acceptable arrangement has been made for the settlement of the account. In the event of the matter becoming acrimonious you are to immediately notify PALSA (in writing)
  1. Where you are required to gather information, evidence or interview person(s) or witnesses you will do so l maintaining a professional, ethical and sound mannerism at all times in all ways.
  1. Should you or any agent(s) you retain for and on behalf of your client take the matter on, on a contingency fee basis, you will apply the same rules and criteria as stipulated in the Contingency Fee Act 66 of 1997. Also as stipulated in the Act you may not charge more than 25% (VAT incl) as a maximum fee on any one matter. You will not proceed on a contingency basis, nor appoint anyone on same basis, without signing a properly set out contingency fee agreement.
  1. Your staff, business partners and / or any other related associates employed by you, retained by you, or working with and or for you are fully bound to the above through you.
  1. You will at all times in all ways conduct and act in a manner of Utmost Good faith.
  1. Any of your Marketing or communication, such as social media and advertising, will at all times adhere to and reflect the above requirements in all ways.
  • You have a duty to report any issues, irregularities, conduct unbecoming, illegal acts or any other untoward actions, disagreements, situations or incidents to PALSA (in writing) as soon as you become aware of such a situation.

AGREEMENT

 

I………………………………………………………………………………………..                    (PRINT NAME IN FULL)

 

Herewith agree and fully bind myself to the following:-

  1. I agree to, and will at all times abide by, all the rules and requirements stipulated in this Interim CODE OF CONDUCT.
  2. Should I be found to have transgressed any of the rules or requirements herein, PALSA will notify me in writing, stipulating what the transgression is / was and what the required procedure to remedy the transgression is, or if necessary inform me that a disciplinary process will be instituted and what time-frames are applicable.
  3. In the event of my being given notice to remedy a transgression and I fail to do so within the prescribed time frame, I understand that disciplinary steps will follow.
  4. When being notified of a disciplinary action being taken against me I understand that if corrective steps and also suspension are being put into place I will be notified accordingly in writing.
  5. I understand that I will always be given an opportunity to respond to the allegation in a fair and just manner and to be allowed to fully state my case and present any and all facts and evidence as well as mitigating circumstances, in my defence.
  6. I understand and accept that should a disciplinary procedure be effected against myself, that a notice to this effect will be sent to all other PALSA members and that the same will be posted on the website and on the social media sites. As too will the outcome of the process.
  7. Should I be reported for a transgression or any disciplinary action is taken against myself, I agree to a voluntary “gag order” and will act accordingly. Said “gag order” will remain fully and completely in effect from the moment of notification and remain in effect at all times, even after the final ruling, unless I am so otherwise advised in writing by PALSA.
  8. I will be allowed to relay in a clear, precise and professional manner an accurate account of the facts and the circumstances in the given matter. No personal opinion, nor defamatory or derogatory statements of any kind may be made by myself against either PALSA or any other party(y’s) involved. PALSA will be bound by the same terms.
  9. Should I be found guilty of any misconduct or transgression I am entitled to appeal the process (in writing) to PALSA within 5 (FIVE) working days from date of ruling.
  10. In the event that my appeal is unsuccessful or I am not in agreement with the process I have the right to take further action in any legal and lawful manner I deem necessary.
  11. Before effecting para (j) above, however, I agree to attempt to address and resolve the matter in any way that will be in the interest of all parties concerned, and with a view to a reasonable and fairly negotiated resolution. I am also entitled to appoint either a mediator or a dispute resolution expert, at my own cost. PALSA agrees to be bound to this option, providing that the appointed mediator/expert is a recognised, regulated and authorised person/body.
  12. I accept and agree that pursuant to para (h-k), should I be found guilty of a transgression or

misconduct that my full membership is revoked, with an announcement of the same being made by PALSA. I may after a period of 6 (SIX) or 12 (TWELVE) months reapply for membership by motivating my request.  I will be advised in writing by PALSA of which time frame is applicable.

  1. I accept and agree that such request will be determined solely by PALSA and based on certain criteria, which will be made known to me on either my suspension or re-application.

Thus done and signed at ______________________on this ____day of _____________2016

 

___________________________________

For the PARALEGAL

(Print Name)

 

the Deponent having acknowledged that he

 

(a) knows and understands the contents of this Affidavit;

 

(b) has no objection to taking the oath;

 

(c) considers this oath to be binding on his/her conscience and utters the words “I swear that the contents of this Declaration are true, so help me GOD”.

 

                  ________________________

COMMISSIONER OF OATHS