By Swazi Malinga and Elsabe Steenhuisen
In March 2017, ProBono.Org established a Divorce Help Desk at the Johannesburg Regional Court, which operates every Tuesday from 09h00 to 12h00.
The purpose of the help desk is to assist and encourage attorneys to complete their pro bono hours, and also to assist members of the public who qualify for pro bono assistance with their matrimonial (divorce) matters by providing them with legal advice, completion of the relevant court forms and, from time to time, providing assistance with drafting or completion of the summons and other relevant court pleadings.
At the beginning there were two volunteer attorneys staffing the help desk. Since recruitment of attorneys is essential in order to sustain this help desk, we approached the Johannesburg Attorneys Association in September, who assisted by advertising the help desk in their newsletter. The Johannesburg Family Law Forum also circulated our request for assistance amongst its members. We now have at least eight more volunteer attorneys who have signed up to staff the help desk and we look forward to recruiting more volunteers.
The help desk also offers a great opportunity for candidate attorneys and LEAD graduates.
Our One Child a Year (OCAY) campaign consultant, Elsabe Steenhuisen, runs the Divorce help desk on Tuesday mornings with candidate attorneys and LEAD graduates as part of her private pro bono hours. LEAD graduates have preference in assisting at the help desk as the aim is to empower candidates who have not secured articles in private practice. Secondly, it aims to instil an awareness of the merits of pro bono work in candidates on the brink of entering the law profession.
Three LEAD graduates and a candidate attorney participated. They underwent two training sessions with adv Steenhuisen before they started work under supervision. All three LEAD graduates assisted further at ProBono.Org’s office with other tasks in the OCAY project. Four new LEAD graduates were enrolled and underwent the first training session in January 2018 and started assisting the public on 6 February.