On the 9th of December 2020, the Legal Practice Council (“LPC”), signed and gave notice that the Rules pertaining to Practical Vocational Contracts (“PVT”), made under sections 95(1), 95(3) and 109(2) of the Legal Practice Act, have changed. (The contracts referred to here are generally those that apply to the appointment of candidate attorneys by law firms to undergo a set period of practical training before they are admitted as attorneys, and after passing the admission examinations.)
In terms of the new Rules, it is now considered misconduct for a firm to require a prospective Candidate Attorney to have a valid driver’s license as well as to own/have access to a vehicle that will be used in the course of their employment.
This came to the relief of many prospective legal practitioners seeking articles. It has been an uphill battle for a vast majority of LLB graduates and the new Rules will assist them greatly.
However, the specific wording of the provision creates another dilemma. Upon interpretation, Rule 126.96.36.199 states that an attorney seeking to employ a candidate legal practitioner will be found guilty of misconduct if he/she enquires whether the applicant is in possession of a valid driver’s license, owns/has access to the use of a vehicle for use in the course of his/her prospective employment.
When looking at the above (in particular the word “enquires”), it can be deduced that a potential employer cannot ask if the prospective employee has a license or a car during the interview process. This begs the question: what if the employer has a car that the employee can use?
It is known that firms use the requirement of a valid driver’s license and a vehicle to ensure that their candidates are independent enough to travel, and thus to weed out candidates that otherwise do not have a vehicle. Assuming that the LPC sought to ensure that firms do not discriminate against those who are not in possession of a vehicle or a valid license, in doing so they have limited the manner in which firms can operate when it comes to work that requires mobility as well as the interview process. This approach chosen by the LPC will create difficulties for firms seeking to employ candidates.