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History of the NFA / Geskiedenis van die NFA

The National Forum of Advocates (“NFA”) was conceived by practicing advocates with successful criminal practices during 1996, and the South African Criminal Law Bar Association ("SACLBA"), as it was known then, was established on 1 May 1997.

The SACLBA was established as a result of the need for specialization in the legal profession, and its founding was welcomed by several prominent members of the legal fraternity. The vision of specialization in the legal profession coincided with that of the former Minister of Justice the late Mr. Dullah Omar. Minister Omar’s recognition of the need for specialization was a fundamental principle in the "Vision 2000" policy document of the government.

Before the SACLBA was established, the driving force behind its establishment, advocate As Burger contacted the late Minister Omar. In the subsequent meeting during which the need for the SACLBA was explained to Minister Omar, he pledged his unequivocal support for the founding of the SACLBA.

Professor Verschoor of the University of the Free State also visited the late former Chief Justice Mahomed in Bloemfontein and discussed the need for a specialist Bar with him.

The General Councel of the Bar (“GCB”) was also approached and informed of the impending formation of the SACLBA. Despite the SACLBA's later application to become an associate member of the G.C.B., the application failed.

The main distinction between the SACLBA and the constituent Bar Associations of the GCB was the fact that all the members of the SACLBA specialized in the field of Criminal Law. In contrast the constituent Bar Associations of the GCB allowed a student fresh from university and a 6 month pupillage to defend accused on a pro-deo basis in the High Court. Advocates could only become members of the SACLBA once they had at least 3 years recognized practical experience. This enabled inter alia former state advocates and Regional Court Magistrates to become members of the SACLBA without having to serve pupillage without an income. Amongst the members joining the SACLBA in this manner was, for instance PAJ Kotze, the former Regional Court President for Southern Gauteng (Johannesburg) who also acted as a Judge in the High Court on occasions, as well as a former Deputy Attorney General (Pretoria), Advocate Schnetler.

Several members of the SACLBA had previously successfully completed pupillage at a constituent Bar Association of the GCB.

The NFA upholds the rules and ethics of the GCB, and it follows the rulings of the ethics committees of the GCB The NFA has its own disciplinary committee that ensures compliance with these rules and ethics, and may, in the case of serious contraventions, bring an application to have members suspended or even removed from the Roll of Advocates.

The NFA follows and will strictly enforce the referral rule. Our members may not receive instructions without the intervention of a practicing attorney. If it is found that a member received a brief directly from a client, it will be considered as professional misconduct.

As a result of the passing of Minister Omar and subsequent changes in the government vision of specialization in the Courts and the legal profession, it was decided to change the name of the SACLBA to "National Forum of Advocates" to clearly indicate that NFA advocates were not only specializing in criminal litigation, but where involved in all branches of legal practice.

Prospective members still have to satisfy the NFA that they possess the necessary practical experience to practice as members.