2022 is the year Lawtons Africa celebrates 130 years of offering legal services. From our origins as a small firm offering legal advice to entrepreneurial fortune seekers, we have developed into a full-service commercial offering – with soul!
We pride ourselves not only on our accolades but also our contribution towards our clients and society through outreach work, pro bono work and job creation.
Apart from our continuous endeavour to provide the best possible legal services, we also provide some of these for free to those most in need and least able to pay. Continue reading to find out how Lawtons Africa is driving outreach and pro bono projects as well as job creation.
We extend our heartfelt thanks to our loyal clients, colleagues and business partners, and wish you and your families peace, prosperity, good health, and happiness over the festive season, and a happy and exciting 2023.
Jeff Buckland, Veronica Vurgarellis, SJ Thema
Lawtons Africa Management Board
From 1892 to 2022 – 130 Years of Growth, Change, and Experience
Our firm was founded in 1892, six years after gold was first discovered on the Witwatersrand. Johannesburg was no more than a dusty mining camp, populated by adventurers as cosmopolitan and diverse in culture as the people of South Africa today.
At the time, the firm’s main area of business was registration and protection of mining claims, registration of titles to land, and formation of businesses and new companies.
Today, 130 years later, Johannesburg is a thriving metropolis, and we are now a full-service law firm, advising a wide range of domestic and international corporations, banks, financial institutions and state-owned entities.
In celebration of the firm’s 130th anniversary, we pledged 130 hours to the community that helped us reach this milestone. We challenged our staff to participate in this volunteering initiative. More about this in our pro bono section.
Legal Directory Rankings
Over the years, the firm and our lawyers have been ranked consistently in various legal directories.
We are pleased to report that 2022 was no different.
Lawtons Africa Services (Pty) Ltd
A big milestone for us in April this year was the opening of our support services company Lawtons Africa Services, a fully black-owned company, with a staff complement of 33.
Lawtons Africa continues to operate as a law firm with only legal professionals. LA Services takes care of the non-legal work of Lawtons Africa, such as finance, operations, logistics, IT, HR, marketing, and business development, with the intention to extend these services to other clients.
Job creation and economic empowerment
The success of our YES initiative
The YES (Youth Employment Service) programme is a joint initiative by the private sector and government to reduce youth unemployment in South Africa. The 12-month programme aims to enable more youth to gain meaningful workplace experience and develop new skills to improve their chances of finding long-term employment.
Lawtons Africa has participated in the YES programme since its inception in 2019. We’ve placed candidates in HR, marketing, finance, and IT with the goal of providing training in the respective fields to either retain them as staff or provide them with the necessary skills to find employment elsewhere.
The benefits were manifold. Having young people in the teams, who were eager and excited about gaining work experience and learning new skills, provided a new dynamic within our firm. The required training element gave team managers the opportunity to improve their training and people management skills. During the first two years of the programme the firm also benefited from a higher BEE rating, which has been retained since but through other rating components.
One requirement of the YES programme is that the employer retains two candidates. Every year, the firm has retained more than the required number. The rapport the candidates built with the team at Lawtons Africa has resulted in many of them keeping in touch.
One of our 2019 YES interns, who was employed in our marketing team after completing his learnership and joined another law firm in a more senior position in 2021, had this to say about his experience at Lawtons Africa:
“Working at Lawtons Africa was the most rewarding, educational, and exciting experience of my career. Being the youngest person in a company of over 250 staff was very daunting. I had many doubts and concerns about what I had just gotten myself into, but seemingly, every employee of the firm had a memo of how they were individually going to have a positive influence on my life and career."
“My training included work ethics, fitting into a culture, and standing out without losing your own identity, which was taught to me instinctively by every staff member. Above this, I gained significant technical knowledge in business development and marketing. Lawtons had many of the best people in the market to train and guide me. Our team was a perfect combination of incorporating work and fun in the office. This balance contributed positively to my mental well-being, enhanced my creative skills and improved my overall work ethic. Currently, I have branched off to new heights and I am extremely confident with the skills I gained and am aware of the value I am able to bring to the table. They know I’ll forever be grateful.”
We strongly encourage other companies to participate in the YES initiative. Not only will you be able to help previously unemployable youths to gain work experience, the satisfaction of having made a difference in their lives is priceless.
The Lawtons Africa Legal Helpline
A value-added service for our clients’ employees
At Lawtons Africa, we are passionate about access to justice and empowerment, and this includes providing free legal advice to qualifying individuals. This is our commitment to the community and our contribution to empowerment.
It is also our commitment to our clients and their employees.
We know that employees are the lifeblood of your business and that, in today’s competitive employment market, employee wellbeing is a priority.
The Lawtons Africa Legal Helpline is available to our clients’ qualifying employees at no cost. Your employees will have access to quality, confidential legal advice on the issues that matter the most. Qualifying employees must earn less than R7 500 per month. And we will not offer legal advice in respect of labour matters/employment disputes to avoid a conflict of interest.
Lawtons Africa Legal Helpline is open on Tuesdays from 08h30 to 15h00. Call (011) 523 6000.
Lawtons Africa assists qualifying individuals and NPOs with pro bono legal advice and services. Our legal professionals have dedicated more than 1 000 hours to pro bono clients through legal advice, litigation services and legal administration with a rand value of almost R 2 million.
Pro Bono Litigation Highlights in 2022
Our Pro Bono Litigation Department specialises in property rights disputes and human rights litigation with a particular passion for access to housing and equality matters. Our commitment to assisting in housing disputes is our commitment to furthering the stability and dignity of families and individuals.
If it’s a loan, why take my home?
During 2022, our Pro Bono Department commenced an investigation into SP (Pty) Ltd after being approached by Ms Mabaso, a resident of Chiawelo, Soweto.
SP (Pty) Ltd was registered in 2017, and, since registration, it has purchased more than 40 properties, the majority of which were purchased considerably under market value. One of the properties was purchased for ZAR190k in 2018 and sold for ZAR1.1m in 2021. Another property was purchased for ZAR250k in 2019 and sold for ZAR720k later the same year.
Lawtons Africa located and contacted five owners who had sold their properties to SP (Pty) Ltd under market value. All owners presented the same version – they had applied for loans and were instructed to sign forms they did not understand. It was subsequently discovered that these forms were agreements of sale. On the day that they received their loan amounts, ownership of their properties passed to SP (Pty) Ltd. The alleged loan amount was then recorded as the purchase price. All owners were then presented with lease agreements that included a monthly option-to-purchase fee.
On 4 August 2022, the North Gauteng High Court handed down judgment in Dirk Cornelis Uys N.O. (Cornelis Family Trust) and Others // The National Credit Regulator and Another (A58/2021). The facts were identical to those presented by the owners in our investigation. The court held that the Cornelis Family Trust, through its trustees, had concluded simulated loan agreements to circumvent compliance with the National Credit Act 34 of 2005.
Through this judgment, we ascertained that two of the trustees implicated in Dirk Cornelis Uys N.O. (Cornelis Family Trust) and Others // The National Credit Regulator and Another (A58/2021) were directors of SP (Pty) Ltd.
SP (Pty) Ltd was registered a year prior to the first complaint being made against the Cornelis Family Trust. While the National Credit Regulator investigated the affairs of the Cornelis Family Trust, the trustees, now in their capacities as directors, continued the same scheme on a much larger scale through SP (Pty) Ltd.
With the collective evidence gathered from previous owners, and on the strength of Dirk Cornelis Uys N.O. (Cornelis Family Trust) and Others // The National Credit Regulator and Another (A58/2021), Lawtons Africa lodged complaints with the National Credit Regulator on behalf of the owners. The investigation into the complaints is ongoing.
The veggie burger wars
Our Pro Bono Litigation Department assisted and advised ProVeg South Africa in their fight against the Food Safety Agency’s seizures of plant-based products. The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development determined that plant-based products using the names “burgers”, “nuggets” and “sausages” violated Regulation 1283 of the Agricultural Product Standards Act 199 of 1990. The Food Safety Agency gave plant-based product suppliers and retailers an ultimatum – change product names or face imminent product seizures.
The plant-based food industry argued that it could not be regulated by regulations made for the processed meat industry and that it was illogical and exclusionary to reserve the words “burger”, “nugget” and “sausage” for meat-based products.
Lawtons Africa assisted ProVeg with comparative research and offered litigation support to the plant-based industry. This culminated in a successful interim-interdict application brought by the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa to halt all seizures pending an appeal on the decision to seize.
Read more here:
Pro Bono Helpline
The Lawtons Africa Pro Bono Helpline was established on 21 June 2022. For many, travelling to procure pro bono legal services is costly and makes the law inaccessible. The Lawtons Africa Pro Bono Helpline was launched to bridge this gap. It connects callers with free legal advice on different topics every month, including domestic violence, eviction, civil claims and divorce.
The Lawtons Africa Pro Bono Helpline operates every Tuesday from 09h00 – 12h00. The helpline number is 011 523 6000.
Lawtons Africa Law Clinic, Diepkloof
Community building requires more than presence, it demands commitment. On 18 June 2022, we launched our Lawtons Africa Law Clinic in Diepkloof, Soweto. Through our partnership with Matlhogonolo Community Outreach Centre, we bring pro bono legal education and advice to the community of Diepkloof every month.
Since its launch, the Lawtons Africa Law Clinic has grown considerably and welcomes regular attendees every month. Volunteers from Lawtons Africa prepare fresh sandwich platters for attendees and provide refreshments for each session. Click here to view pictures from the Diepkloof Law Clinic.
Mzi Chiloane, is a community leader in Diepkloof and aspires to become a paralegal. He was interviewed during the last Lawtons Africa Diepkloof Law Clinic session for 2022:
“Since I came here, I have learnt a lot of things. I am a community leader and a lot of people in my community come to me with many questions and coming to the law clinic has enabled me to help people in my community.
“We are taught about new areas of the law in every session, we were taught about harassment and abuse. With the legal experience we have received from you guys, we will be able to assist community members with better knowledge as opposed to resorting to vigilantism.
“The people in my community normally ask for help with cases of evictions and we have learnt a lot about how to assist in such cases. We have also been taught about contracts, leases and further learnt about children’s rights and our roles towards children.
“Importantly, today we learnt about marriage and divorce, which is one of the things carrying our community, because we marry and then get divorced without knowing and understanding the legal implications that follow. We were further taught about different marital regimes and were then asked which regime we think is best. We learnt that all the regimes have both advantages and disadvantages and that we should be aware of these regimes before getting into a contract because it will allow you to plan for your marriage since you might stand a lot to lose as an individual should the need for a divorce arise.”
In celebration of National Wills Week, the Lawtons Africa Pro Bono Department held an interactive workshop on wills and estates at the communal hall in Soweto. Attendees reflected on the benefits of having a will, the duties of an executor and the clauses that can be included in a will to provide for
protection and continuity of the family-house. After the workshop, attendees were invited to have their wills drafted free of charge by our legal professionals.
Read more here: https://sowetourban.co.za/?p=106046
At Lawtons Africa, we are committed to community outreach and community building. Our legal professionals and support staff have committed over 1 300 hours to community outreach during 2022 with a rand value of almost R 2 million.
130 Hours Volunteering Initiative
In celebration of the firm’s 130th birthday, we pledged 130 hours to the community that helped us reach this milestone. We challenged everyone in the firm to commit at least two hours of their time to a volunteering initiative. Charities that we’ve supported include Dog Town SA, Yenzani Children’s Home, and the Salvation Army’s Emmarentia Eventides Home for the Aged.
We are so proud of all our professionals and support staff who have volunteered their time to a variety of incredible initiatives, organisations and projects since May 2022. In recognition of their service to the community, the inaugural Lawtons Africa Citizenship Award will be conferred on the employee who committed the most time to the 130 hours volunteering initiative. Click here to view pictures.
Youth Day: Crime and Consequences Session
On Youth Day, Lawtons Africa partnered with the Westbury Community Policing Executive Group and The Together Action Group to lead an information session for at-risk youths. The session identified the key issues faced by young people in the community and considered the social and legal solutions available.
On 18 July 2022, Lawtons Africa travelled to Doornkop to paint, retile and furnish the Makgulong A Matala Day Care Centre. Situated in the heart of the Doornkop community, the centre provides a safe place for children to play and learn during the day. It was established by an elder in the Doornkop community to allow parents, especially young mothers, to continue their schooling and seek employment opportunities. Click here to view pictures.
Women’s Day Empowerment Workshop
Lawtons Africa spent Women’s Day with the female residents at New Beginnings Foundation and Homeless Shelter. The residents were invited to an empowerment workshop and lunch to share their stories of courage and to discuss legal rights and remedies with lawyers from Lawtons Africa and Lawyers Against Abuse. Click here to view the pictures.
Heritage Month - “Your Language, Your Lease” Project
To celebrate our heritage and diversity, volunteers from Lawtons Africa drafted simple residential lease agreements in eight official languages. The lease agreements are our contribution to making legal services more accessible and inclusionary.
16 Days of Activism: Art Advocacy and Awareness Project
Our 16 Days of Activism initiative saw us partnering with the Art Healing Academy and the Frida Hartley Shelter for Destitute Women and Children.
16 volunteers residing at the Frida Hartley Shelter for Destitute Women and Children participated in an art therapy workshop initiated and sponsored by Lawtons Africa. The volunteers were gender-based violence survivors who wanted to lend their voices to female empowerment, awareness and advocacy.
The paintings created during the art therapy workshop are on display in the communal atrium of 140 West Street, Sandton for the 16 Days of Activism period and have also been shared on our website and social media.
After display, the collection will be submitted to the Constitutional Court Art Collection for review and, in the event of approval, subsequent donation to the Constitutional Court Art Trust.
Click here to view artwork
Pimville Senior Citizens’ Christmas Party
Lawtons Africa is sparking light, love and joy in the lives of Pimville’s senior citizens this December.
On 9 December 2022, we hosted a Christmas banquet, complete with a buffet, gifts, bingo and all the festive cheer for a group of deserving senior citizens from Pimville, Soweto.
Throughout the year, our Lawtons Africa volunteers crochet blankets, scarves and beanies to donate to shelters and orphanages at the start of winter. Our crochet club meets in the office during lunchbreaks to discuss patterns, projects and new designs. They work together to keep communities warm, one blanket at a time.
Legal news and updates
Throughout the years, our professionals have always aimed to keep you informed about legal developments that could affect your businesses. Here are a few links to some of the articles we posted during 2022: