Group BEE Standards – setting standards for the legal industry

The impact of the revised Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Codes (“Revised BEE Codes”) will affect all businesses in South Africa, including the legal profession, and will necessitate an increased focus by law firms on their BEE planning, professional development and community involvement if they are to continue serving their clients as South African citizens of good standing.

The Phatshoane Henney Group, as a national association of leading law firms, have recognised the importance of prioritizing BEE and have committed themselves to the achievement of its goals. It is this commitment to BEE and in recognition of the challenges imposed by the Revised BEE Codes that the group embarked on a process of developing specific standards for compliance by group firms, culminating in the implementation of Group BEE Standards (“Standards”) across all firms in the group in 2014. 

These Standards are progressive and aimed at establishing an environment conducive to BEE development within the firm as well as ensuring compliance by each firm with the requirements of the Revised BEE Codes. In doing so, member firms have taken a leading role in the legal fraternity in identifying law firm requirements and standards for BEE.

The Standards consist of three inter-related spheres focusing on recruitment and professional development, BEE compliance, and corporate social responsibility. The Standards also have a specific focus on the development of BEE at regional law firms where BEE has struggled to obtain traction at a professional level due to the difficulty experienced by regional firms in attracting BEE candidates to regional centres. 

In respect of recruitment and professional development, there are established targets for the recruitment and appointment of both BEE candidate attorneys and professionals. These will translate in time into targets for director and partner appointments. To support the achievement of these targets, firms are required to implement recruitment plans and remuneration and benefit strategies that are tailored towards attracting talented BEE candidates to firms. Once appointed, induction and development plans coupled with training and mentorship programmes are aimed at increasing the retention rates of candidates and ensuring a steady growth in the percentage of BEE appointments across the group.

On the compliance side, firms are required to ensure that they undergo BEE verification and achieve high BEE levels. This ensures that firms’ plan holistically to meet the requirements of the Revised BEE Codes across all elements and position firms both as empowering suppliers and service providers of choice for businesses seeking the services of BEE compliant firms. Firms are also required to comply with employment equity and skills development legislation as important supportive laws to the fulfilment of BEE goals.

Lastly, the group has implemented various initiatives in support of the commitment to community and socio-economic initiatives. These are supported by all firms and include national bursary programmes for candidate attorneys articling at group firms, the funding of learnerships for disabled persons through the Phatshoane Henney Training Academy as well as enterprise development and supplier development initiatives. 

Fundamental to the realization of these Standards is the annual measurement of each firm. Such assessment ensures that these Standards are prioritized and enjoy strategic attention at both group and firm level, contributing towards positioning each member firm as a good corporate citizen with a demonstrated commitment to the broad-based spirit of the Revised BEE Codes.

April 23, 2015

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