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Thursday, 03 September 2020

Transforming administration of justice in South Africa

LEGAL EAGLE: Acting Head of Department: Applied Legal Studies, Dr Noleen Leach, was voted second runner-up for the national REBOTILE BOPAPE Award in 2019 and also bagged a Teaching Excellence Award from the Faculty of Business in 2018. LEGAL EAGLE: Acting Head of Department: Applied Legal Studies, Dr Noleen Leach, was voted second runner-up for the national REBOTILE BOPAPE Award in 2019 and also bagged a Teaching Excellence Award from the Faculty of Business in 2018.

A dedicated senior academic has led to the establishment of the first university department on the African continent that focuses exclusively on the education and training of paralegals, as part of the transformation of the administration of justice.

The Department of Applied Legal Studies has introduced the first degree in paralegal studies, consolidating the formalisation of the education and training of paralegal practitioners in higher education and thus contributing to the transformation of legal services in the country.

“I have had the privilege of leading this team through the long and arduous process of establishing the Department of Applied Legal Studies at CPUT,” says Acting Head of Department, Dr Noleen Leach.

While the department only received its status in 2019, Leach has been heading the former academic entity, the Unit for Applied Law since 2014.

Over the 16 years she has spent at CPUT she has lectured in the Department of Public Management and Law as well as the School for Accounting Sciences.

The former adds that establishing the department proved to be an important step as CPUT has become a key partner in the drive towards the professionalization of the paralegal sector in South Africa, which has been part of the agenda of the Department of Justice since the adoption of Justice Vision 2000.

“This is made possible through collaboration with important stakeholders that are too many to mention and additional funding from the C.S. Mott Foundation and the Open Society Foundation of South Africa.”

The first cohort of students who were admitted to the Bachelor of Paralegal Studies programme in 2018 is due to graduate at the end of the year.

The first, fully-funded cohort of community-based paralegal practitioners is due to be admitted to the programme in 2021 through an RPL strategy that is the result of a comprehensive national research project completed by the department and funded by the C.S. Mott foundation. 

“In so doing,” continues the legal eagle, “the department is giving effect to the constitutional mandate of restorative justice by providing access to advanced accredited training to paralegal  practitioners whose education and training has to date been undervalued and neglected in the academy.  The graduation of this cohort will make an important contribution towards the sustainability and transformation of legal services for vulnerable communities”

Leach adds that the completion of her LLD thesis, entitled The Paralegal and the Right of Access to Justice in South Africa, was only made possible by drawing on the wisdom of others.

Enquiries from post graduate students in other countries are also a reflection of the interest that the thesis has generated.

The Department intends to codify the body of knowledge in the paralegal sector by drawing it into the academy through research and curriculating postgraduate qualifications with the focus on multi-disciplinary research.  “The establishment of a centre for socio-legal research at the university is therefore essential.”

Written by Kwanele Butana

Email: butanak@cput.ac.za

Provides coverage for the Business and Management Sciences and Education Faculties, Student Affairs Department and Cape Town and Mowbray Campuses.