Cape Town - Law is not being properly taught at universities and ethics are being compromised, says the Law Society of South Africa, which has called for an extra year of study for law degrees.

Law students also battled with language and arithmetic, Krish Govender, co-chairman of the society, said on Thursday.

“Young lawyers have turned to short cuts and other quick-fix methods to earn fees,” said Govender.

“They have compromised ethical values and professional conduct. This is because the (university) curriculum does not address ethics training. Ethics is a particular field that governs all our work. It is something you must learn through practice but there are values that must be instilled too.”

The Law Society, the South African Law Deans Association and the General Council of the Bar would host a summit in May called “LLB Summit: Legal Education in Crisis?”

Govender said the summit would discuss plans to increase legal studies at university from four to five years, possibly by 2015. He said that adding an extra year to legal studies would result in “good, solid, consistent, skilled lawyers”.

“The present situation in the country shows that there are large numbers of young lawyers who are battling and who are not as ready as they should be,” he said.

The additional year would address the “basics of language and arithmetic.”

“If you are weak in language and numeracy skills you will walk with crutches as a lawyer,” said Govender.

Govender said judges had complained that recent law graduates needed better training because they were “not efficient and competent”.

“They are unable to present cases. Their education and training at school and university has not done them justice.”

Deans Association president Professor Vivienne Lawack, from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, said students enrolling for law degrees needed better high school education to begin with.

“The deans of many South African law faculties are concerned about the capacity of students entering university to cope with legal studies,” she said.

Lawack said part of the challenge was that “law faculties are unequally resourced and a significant increase in resourcing is needed in order for historically under-resourced law schools to improve the quality of the legal education.”

Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, chairman of Advocates for Transformation, said universities needed to hire better lecturers.

“Universities are struggling to provide degrees. They don’t have staff, libraries and even research facilities, or grants to attract good lecturers,” said Ntsebeza.

Cape Times