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Constitutional Court judgment on common law contingency fees

24 February 2014

RESPONSE BY JOSEPH’S INCORPORATED TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT JUDGMENT CONCERNING COMMON LAW CONTINGENCY FEES:

Joseph's Incorporated has noted the judgment of the Constitutional Court of South Africa in the matter of Ronald Bobroff & Partners Inc v Juanne Elize De La Guerre as well as allegations made by Mr Ronald Bobroff in an article published in the Citizen newspaper on 22 October 2013 headed “Bobroff hits back” and a press release by the South African Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (SAAPIL) and Ronald Bobroff & Partners Inc dated 20 February 2014.

Our response:

1. The relationship between Joseph’s Incorporated and its clients is governed by the provisions of the Contingency Fees Act, No. 66 of 1997 which, inter alia, provides for legal practitioners working on a no win – no fee basis, to charge double their usual hourly rate to a maximum of 25% (twenty five percentum), whichever is the lesser.

2. Joseph’s Incorporated does not utilise so called “common law contingency fee arrangements”. We have questioned the validity thereof and raised our concerns about the practise of charging so called common law contingency fees when we acted as attorneys of record for an amicus to the court in the matter of Myhill v Goldschmidt and others during 2008. Our view has been vindicated by the judgment of the Constitutional Court.

3. The Council of the Law Society of the Northern Provinces mandated its members on 23 February 2001 and 21 June 2002 to enter into “Common Law Contingency Fee Agreements.” This mandate appears to have been ill conceived.

4. Joseph’s Incorporated had during December 2008 alerted the then President of the Law of Society of the Northern Provinces, Mr Ronald Bobroff to the invalidity of common law contingency fee agreements. Our views were ignored.

5. Joseph’s Incorporated resigned as a member of the South African Association of Personal Injury Lawyers during December 2008, due, inter alia, to the said Association (steered by Mr Ronald Bobroff) adopting the mandate of the Law Society.

6. Joseph’s Incorporated has:

6.1 always charged fees for professional services based on ethical considerations and the provisions and rules of our governing statutes and governing body that fees be fair and reasonable;

6.2 never charged a netto fee that contravenes the applicable legislation;

6.3 never been found guilty of overcharging and/or unprofessional conduct.

7. We welcome the judgment of the Constitutional Court and its clarification of contingency fees.

 

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