The admission of foreign legal practitioners in South Africa: a GATS perspective
The legal services sector has experienced several changes as a consequence of the growth in international trade. The proliferation of South African companies doing business in Africa, and an increasing number of foreign businesses using South Africa as a springboard to do business in other parts of the continent, have necessitated the expansion of local legal firms' offerings to include cross-border legal advice. Another important phenomenon has been the rise of legal process outsourcing, in which law firms outsource legal support services to other law firms or legal support services companies, often located in another country. South Africa has become one of the most popular international destinations for legal process outsourcing. Domestic or host-country law plays a limited role in international trade in legal services due to the national character of the law and legal education.
In 1995, South Africa made legally binding commitments to liberalise legal services under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The commitments allow foreign legal practitioners to establish commercial presence in, and transfer personnel (including legal practitioners) to, South Africa. This paper attempts to analyse South Africa's commitments under GATS in the light of current and proposed legislation governing the admission and enrolment of foreign legal practitioners in South Africa.
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