LLB from a Private Institution: Admission granted

  • In Independent Institute of Education (Pty) Ltd v The Kwazulu-Natal Law Society and Others (2019) ZACC 47, the Constitutional Court had to decide whether the LLB degree offered to students by the applicant, Independent Institute of Education (“IIE”), met the requirements for admission as a legal practitioner.
  • Section 26(1)(a) of the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (“LPA”) indicates that a person qualifies to be admitted as a legal practitioner when s/he has met all the requirements for the LLB degree obtained from a university.
  • The respondent, the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society (“KZNLS”), argued before the High Court that the IIE does not qualify as a university and is also not on the list of institutions with an accredited LLB degree. This means that a person who obtained an LLB from the IIE cannot be admitted as a legal practitioner. 
  • The High Court declared section 26(1)(a) of the LPA unconstitutional as it infringed the IIE’s constitutional rights to:
  1. establish a private education institution in terms of section 29(3) of the Constitution;
  2. equality before the law in terms of section 9(1) of the Constitution; and
  3. freedom of profession, occupation and trade in terms of section 22 of the Constitution.
  • The matter was sent to the Constitutional Court to decide on the validity of section 26(1)(a) of the LPA.
  • The Constitutional Court did not confirm the order made by the High Court and found that the KZNLS was wrong in its interpretation that a registered private educational institution does not fall under the definition of a university.
  • Even though the Constitutional Court did not declare section 26(1)(a) of the LPA to be invalid, it stated that the LPA existed in order to provide entrance into the legal profession for everyone who completed the LLB degree from a standard acceptable to the South African Qualifications Authority. This means that the focus should be on whether the LLB degree is properly accredited or not.
  • This judgment means that a student who completes his/her properly accredited LLB degree at an accredited private institution qualifies to be admitted as a legal practitioner.