The Uganda Law Council is working on putting together regulations to govern people trained in subsidiary legal matters but not fully qualified as lawyers who are legally referred to as paralegals.
This was revealed by Justice Egonda Ntende, the Justice of the Court of Appeal and the current chairperson of the Uganda Law Council at the National Dialogue for Community Paralegals organised by Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) in Kampala on Friday.
“The Law Council is in the process of formulating regulations to ensure provision of quality services by the paralegals at an opportune time. We intend to engage all stakeholders to share ideas regarding the minimum academic qualifications, if any, with the procedure of becoming a paralegal and a possible code of conduct and any other related area that would improve the services that you provide in the community,” said Justice Ntende.
As far as training paralegals is concerned, Ntende called on all stakeholders engaged in training paralegals to ensure that the subjects they are trained in are well prepared and facilitated.
As Law Council and regulator of the legal profession, Ntende encouraged paralegals to maintain high standards and work within the confines of the law to perform their respective duties.
“I believe the role of paralegals is vital in promotion of access to justice, rule of law and consequently the growth of vibrant economy and social and political stability of our country.”
Furthermore, Justice Ntende implored paralegals to endeavor to fight corruption in the communities where they operate.
“You know the cancer of corruption in Africa. We are all familiar with challenges people go through in accessing public services. It is important that as paralegals, you work with the community in ensuring that the cancer of corruption does not continue to spread. On the contrary, that all efforts are made to root it out. I urge each one of you to always have this issue of access to justice by all at the heart of all your endeavors,” he added.
Meanwhile, Dr. Sylvia Namubiru Mukasa, the Chief Executive Officer of LASPNET said that paralegals play a vital role in the communities where they operate by addressing disputes and protecting human rights.
“Paralegals are very important because they work in the community, they are the ears and eyes, they are the first instance when it comes to protection of human rights and addressing disputes that are rising,” she said.
Namubiru, however, added that currently, the paralegals that are recognised in Uganda are those that have a qualification in law or equivalent to law such as a diploma in law and are employed by LASPNET or Legal Aid Service Providers (LASPS).
She noted that many trained paralegals are out in the community on their own, adding that what they do is barely documented and they are not followed to know what exactly they are doing and whether what they are doing is according to the standards.
“We find that they are scattered and we want to bring them in the ambit of the network to have a paralegal movement which we can easily follow and know what they are doing, equip them and support their reporting mechanisms,” she said.
LASPNET also inaugurated a voice magazine to document the success stories of the paralegals.
“We are bringing that as one way of trying to track them to contribute to access to justice,” Namubiru said.