Paralegal studies degree hailed

FACT FINDING: A delegation from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation recently met with lecturers and students in the Unit for Applied Law to learn about opportunities that await students and graduates of the new Bachelor of Paralegal Studies degree.

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation lauded CPUT’s Bachelor of Paralegal Studies degree, as significant for the professionalisation of the paralegal field.

CPUT is the only institution in the country which offers this degree.

The foundation recently visited the Unit for Applied Law to learn more about the new degree programme and interacted with lecturers and students.

Lorenzo Wakefield, Programme Officer at the Foundation, says: “We’re looking at how best we can support the accessibility and inclusivity of community-based paralegals into the Bachelor of Paralegal Studies and we are having good discussions with the Unit for Applied Law.”

Wakefield added:  “Injustices happen to the people and they don’t know how to get justice, the formal legal fraternity is inaccessible,” he says. “We’re looking at how we can assist them with their research activities and support them to gain the most from the degree.”

This was a site visit by the global coordinator to gain insight into the activities of the Unit for Applied Law which the South African office proposes to fund, says the Unit’s Head, Adv. Noleen Leach.

Leach says the Unit has a Memorandum of Understanding with CAOSA (merged institutions of the National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices) and the Association of Community Advice Offices of South Africa.

“The Mott Foundation is one of the funders of Community Advice Offices in the country.  Most paralegals in practice in the advice offices do not meet the prescribed admissions criteria for the Bachelor of Paralegal Studies programme and CPUT has terminated the age exemption option for access,” she says.

She adds that the foundation extended an invitation to the Unit to apply for funding for research that will inform the Recognition of Prior Learning instrument to be designed for access to the Bachelor of Paralegal Studies by community-based paralegals.  “They will be working in collaboration with the Open Society Foundation to ensure that especially community-based paralegals gain access to the programme.”

She argues that the need for paralegals have become critical in the light of the recent announcement by the South African government that it intends to cut legal aid by R500 million over the next three years.  “Cheaper legal services is an imperative if we are to ensure that the marginalised and the poor gain access to justice,” she concludes.

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