Paralegals and their role in the legal system
Practical skills useful for a paralegal
Facilitation skills for community education and training
Organisations that train and support paralegals
In South Africa it has always been difficult for poor and vulnerable people to have access to justice. Legal procedures are complicated, take a long time and often need lawyers who are very expensive. People now enjoy many new rights in terms of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and other new laws, but they can only exercise these rights if they have access to the information and assistance to do so.
There is a growing movement of people who play the role of providers of information and assistance. Examples are community development workers (CDW’s) working in local government structures, advice centre workers, workers in welfare organisations and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and shopstewards in trade unions.
The general name for people who act as legal advisors and educators for communities is 'paralegals'.
Paralegals play an important role in providing access to justice in a transforming justice system. The Department of Justice is investigating ways of giving poor rural people access to legal help and has recognised the importance of involving paralegals in any new system that is developed.
It is hoped that paralegals will become a strong link between people who traditionally were denied access to justice and the legal system that will ensure justice for all. This chapter looks at the different roles paralegals play and covers the skills they need to do their work. The last section looks at the process of establishing and running a community advice centre.
A paralegal is an accredited person, who:
Paralegals use their knowledge and experience to help people with legal and other problems. A paralegal may investigate and refer matters to lawyers or relevant bodies for them to deal with. They can become educators on the law and rights for people in their communities. They can play a leading and supportive role in campaigns for improving community living standards and general community development.
Paralegals are not just mini-lawyers. Obviously they cannot assist people in court and other tribunals until they acquire the relevant qualification and accreditation. But more than this, their role is to look at a variety of methods, other than using the courts, to achieve long-term, sustainable solutions to peoples’ problems. Using the courts can bring quick relief which is important in many cases, but this is not always the case. Court cases can take a long time to be finalized, the costs involved are often huge and the outcome for a person may be negative. Paralegals should aim to deal with problems in a more holistic way.
A woman and her children who are suffering from abuse at the hands of the husband and father, should be advised by a paralegal to apply for a Protection Order. But the paralegal should also see the bigger picture: the woman and her children are financially dependent on the husband and father for their survival so they cannot move out of the house unless they are supported in this process. The paralegal should therefore help the woman apply for Child Support Grants for her children and she should be referred to child welfare or to women abuse organizations for support.
In general, a paralegal should focus more on the use of conflict resolution methods like negotiation, conciliation, mediation and arbitration to resolve conflicts in communities rather than using the courts.
A farmer is planning to evict ten families from his farm without a court order. A paralegal can help the families to approach the courts (using a lawyer) to get an urgent interdict to stop the evictions from taking place. But this only provides the families with temporary relief. It would probably be of more benefit to the families if they were to sit around a table with the farmer and negotiate a way of dealing with the problem which would benefit all the parties. While they are doing this they should be lobbying and putting pressure on the local government to provide land for the families to settle on because they don't have security of tenure rights on the farm. The paralegal can help them in all of these actions.
(See Checklist : Best practices for paralegal case-workers)
Paralegals work in different sectors of society. These include:
The role of paralegals
These are some of the things that paralegals can do:
(See Checklist: Best Practices for Paralegal Case-Workers.)
Paralegals play an important role in the legal process because many people cannot afford lawyers, people sometimes find it intimidating going to a lawyer and there are usually few sympathetic lawyers operating in rural areas.
Formal recognition of paralegals in the legal system
The public and the legal profession recognise that paralegals are important because they allow disadvantaged people to have access to justice. However, for many years paralegals were not formally recognized by the legal profession. There are a number of regulatory options being considered for paralegals, including an independent regulatory framework..
Paralegals should all have a basic but sound knowledge of the law and legal procedures. Advising someone about what the law says and what their rights are in a particular case is the first step in any advice giving process. This section looks at practical skills necessary and useful for a paralegal to have in their advice-giving role.
The skills fall under three main headings:
(See Checklist: Best practices for paralegals)
This section looks at how you can develop your communication skills with:
Communication skills can involve the following:
The process of interviewing a client is as follows:
(See Listening skills, Counseling skills, Advice-giving and problem-solving skills, Referrals, Taking a statement)
When you interview someone who comes to you for help it is important to think about the language you use while talking to the person. This refers to the actual language used as well as the level of language.
It is always better to interview a person in his or her own language. People find it much easier to tell you about their problems in their own language. It makes them feel more at ease and they will be able to explain themselves better. Confusion and misunderstandings often happen when a person has to explain a problem in a language which is not his or her home language. If you cannot speak the language of the person you are interviewing, then you should have someone with you who can translate. If you need to have a translator this person should have a good understanding of both languages and it helps for them to have some basic knowledge of the law.
If you write to your client, you should also try to write the letter in your client's language.
It is important that the person or people you are trying to help can understand your words and sentences properly. If you do not explain things plainly and in a way that is easy to understand, you will not be helping your client. Your client will not learn anything from you and will not be able to help you try and sort out the problem.
These are some examples of language problems:
A statement is necessary because it helps to keep a record of a client's case. The statement is recorded on a case sheet which is a standard question sheet and this is kept in the client's file. You will do all of your work on the case using the information you wrote down in the first statement and it is therefore very important for you to write down accurate and complete information. (See Example of a simple case sheet, Example of a statement)
The statement is divided into four parts:
Write down the standard personal details of the client. The most important details are:
The details you need will be different according to the different types of problems. For example, in a complaint about non-payment of wages you need to know what work the client was doing and what the wage was supposed to be, as well as the name and address of the employer. To help with a pension application, you need the age and present income of the client.
At the end of each chapter of this manual, there are usually one or two checklists. These include the questions that are important to the topics covered in that chapter. Once you know what kind of problem your client has, the checklists for that chapter can help you remember what questions you should ask your client.
Write down every detail of importance. Rather include information if you are not sure whether it is important or not. It might come in useful at a later stage.
Write down all the details of the problem in the correct date order that things happened.
Advising the client
You must tell your client what his or her rights are. You must then explain what steps can be taken to help him or her.
Then you must listen to your client to find out exactly what he or she wants you to do. These are the 'instructions' that your client gives you. For example, if your cleint was dismissed from a job, don't just take it for granted that he or she wants the job back, even if you feel that the dismissal was unfair. On the other hand, if your client says he or she only wants notice pay, this may be because he or she does not know anything about unfair dismissal and reinstatement. It is up to you to explain to your client about all his or her rights, and then let him or her make her own choices.
If there is something that the client is not clear about, ask him or her to find out that information and bring it to you later.
Write down details of the advice that you gave and 'instructions' that your client gave you.
Discuss with your client what steps you will take to try and solve the problem. Make sure the client understands what you are going to do. Be realistic about how much you think you can do for your client and how long it will take to sort out the problem. Do not raise false hopes.
You must then agree on how you are going to report back to your client. This could be by writing a letter to the client or the client coming back to you on a set date.
Write down everything that you do. For example, if you make a telephone call, write this down and what was said in the telephone call. Keep copies of all letters that you write for your client.
Keep copies of all documents in connection with your client's claim, for example, a UIF card in a complaint about UIF benefits, the Instalment Sales Agreement in a problem with hire purchase, and so on. Do not write on original documents. Documents should be stapled to the statement of the client so that they do not get lost.
HOPETOWN ADVICE CENTRE
Telephone number: ................................................................................................................................
Type of case (eg labour):.................................................................................................................................
Description and details of the client's problem:
Advice or suggestions given to the client:
Action taken on behalf of the client:
Date on which the statement was taken: 28 September 2011
Name and address of person who took the statement:
An affidavit is a written statement which you swear is the truth. Another name for an affidavit is a sworn statement. You sign this statement (with your name, or X if you cannot write) in front of someone called a Commissioner of Oaths. A Commissioner of Oaths can be a magistrate, postmaster, a bank manager, lawyer, members of the South African Police Services (SAPS), and certain priests and social workers.
For example, when you need to prove something (like your age in order to get a pension) and you do not have any written proof that what you are saying is true, then you can put this information in an affidavit.
Usually the same information that is used for an ordinary statement will be used in an affidavit. All that happens is that a lawyer or paralegal will turn the statement into an affidavit by adding some formal words at the beginning and at the end of the statement.
How to draw up an affidavit
The statement ....................................................................(fill in what you is true)
|DEPONET||(the person making the statement is the deponent and must sign here but only in front of the Commissioner of Oaths) (then the Commissioner of Oaths fills this next part in:)|
THUS SIGNED AND SWORN TO at __________________. This day of _______________ 2011 the Deponent having acknowledged:
COMMISSIONER OF OATHS
|(Commissioner of Oaths signs here after raising the deponent to swear with your hand in the air that you are telling the truth; the name and address of the Commissioner will be given here, and the office held by the Commissioner, e.g. postmaster)|
THUS SIGNED AND SWORN TO at LANGA. This day of 30th September 2011 the Deponent having acknowledged:
It is important to listen properly to your client when she or he is telling you about a problem. There are different ways that you can use to show your client that you are listening carefully.
If you listen carefully to your client, you will know what help she or he is looking for.
A monitor is someone who watches and records what is happening - often when there is conflict between two sides. A monitor must be independent, and not take sides. A monitor must also be someone who is reliable and truthful.
When there is fighting between different groups, for example in a community, or between the police and other people, it helps to have monitors to give evidence about what happened from a non-involved perspective. In any conflict each side will tell a different story. Monitors can help to find out the truth.
You can also monitor situations in your community on an on-going basis. For example, on-going monitoring of human rights abuses will help you build up a broader picture of the human rights situation in your community or country. You can use the information you gather while monitoring to challenge decision-makers in the different spheres of government. So, for example, you could monitor:
If you are monitoring a specific situation then it helps to work together with someone in a pair. Each pair of monitors will monitor a certain area. The pairs must stay in contact with each other. You can do this by having a messenger who can run between pairs passing messages, or you can use a two-way radio.
As a monitor you must stay as close to the action as possible, but be careful not to become involved in the action.
Whether you are doing on-going monitoring or monitoring a specific situation, you must write down and photograph everything that you see happening. If possible, you must take photographs of all the injured people. You must photograph their injuries, with a match or ruler next to the injury (to show the size of the injury). Make sure they see doctors and get medical certificates. This is important later if you have to give evidence in court. It is also useful if you can draw a map of the area and show where people are. (See Preparing for monitoring checklist)
For example, if you were monitoring a policy-community conflict situation these are the important things you should write down:
When you are monitoring a specific incident or on an on-going basis you should immediately:
You should take the following follow-up action:
(See Checklist: Monitoring Follow-up)
This is an example of an incident sheet for monitoring public events and conflict situations.
Address and telephone of monitor:
Date of incident:
Place of incident (town, district):
Time incident started:
Time incident finished:
People or parties involved:
Numbers of people involved:
Number of houses affected:
List of witnesses:
Number of people injured:
List of injured:
Number of people arrested:
List of arrested:
Name of the lawyer and/or legal firm who have been helping:
SAPS or other security services information:
Weapons used: (if used by anyone other than security services, state who)
Circumstances before incident: (for example, public meeting, march and so on)
Description of incident:
Developments after the incident: (medical treatment, appearances in court, and so on)
Map of the incident
Statements given by:
Sometimes people just want to talk to you about their problems and it may not be necessary for you to take any further action. It might be enough for you to counsel someone about ways to deal with a problem. For example, your client might have a problem with noisy neighbours who party through the night and keep her awake. You can suggest different ways to deal with the problem such as asking for a meeting with the neighbour to discuss the problem or getting a mediator in to help mediate between them.
Counselling is a skill used mainly by professional psychologists and social welfare workers. Where the issues raised by an advice seeker can have serious psychological consequences (for example, in the case of a child who has been abused, a person raped, etc) they will need deeper counselling. Paralegals are not trained to provide this service so they should refer the person to a professional.
Sometimes people only need advice to help them with their problems. It is not necessary to take any other action. For example, someone comes to you for help with a grant-related problem. You can then advise her to go to the Department of Social Development for assistance.
As far as possible you should encourage people to try and sort out their problems on their own. Often this means that you give a person some advice and tell them to come back to you if they haven't managed to sort it out. This makes people less dependent on you to solve their problems and it encourages them to take responsibility for dealing with their own problems.
Always make careful notes of the advice you give so that if the person comes back to you later, you can ask the person whether she or he did as you advised.
Paralegals often play an important role by linking people with a problem to an appropriate agency that is more qualified and better trained to deal with the problem. This could be a government department or it could be a private welfare agency, NGO, religious body, etc.
Examples of assistance agencies that you may refer a client to include child welfare organizations, organizations against women and child abuse, trade unions for labour issues, the maintenance officer at the court, community development workers for issues linked to local governance, etc.
Paralegals should build up a data base of agencies and contact people as part of their referral service.
Always give the person a covering letter when you refer him or her to another organisation. Explain why you are referring the person to them and what work, if any, you have done on the case. Advise the person to come back to you if the agency refuses or is unable to help.
Before you make a telephone call, you must make sure that you understand clearly what the problem is about and what you hope to get out of the telephone call. In other words, you must prepare yourself properly before making the telephone call.
Always introduce yourself to the other person. Tell the person you are telephoning on behalf of your client.
Always write down the name of the person to whom you are speaking, and the date and time of the telephone call.
Never change the story of your client. You must only say what your client told you. If you don't know how to answer the other person, say that you must speak to your client again and you will telephone again.
Be polite but firm about your client's rights and never lose your temper over the phone. Try not to become involved in an argument on the telephone, because you might end up saying things that could harm your client.
Make rough notes while you are speaking on the telephone, then write them down in more detail as soon as you have finished. This is because it is not always possible to remember everything that was said on the telephone. You might have to remember the details later for a court case.
If you reach any agreement with the other person, you must confirm what you agreed in a letter to that person.
Always include in a letter:
Start your letter by saying that you are writing on behalf of your client.
Set out clearly in your letter the details of your client's complaint.
Say exactly what it is you want from the person you are writing to. In other words, say what the person you are writing to must do about the complaint.
Remember to include information that can help to identify your client, for example, identity number, work numbers, pension number, UIF number, Compensation for Occupational Injuries case number, and so on.
Make sure that your letter is signed and has the date on it before you send it out. If possible, get another person to check your letter before you post it.
Keep a copy of all letters written in your client's file, including any hand-delivered letters.
Some standard letters can be photocopied to cut down on typing load. Type the main part of the letter that always stays the same, leaving blanks to fill in the things that change like the client's name. Photocopy the standard letter and then every time you need this kind of letter you just fill in the blanks.
Examples of such letters are:
There are standard MODEL LETTERS in this manual. These letters are there to give you some guidance on what to include in typical letters you may have to write. For example, you will often have to write a letter of demand asking someone to do something, like pay your client money that is owing.
Upington Advice centre
(your telephone number:) Telephone: (0555) 2345289
(date:) 15 June 2011
(some offices give every letter its own reference number:) Our Ref: 135/09
The Manager (the name or title of the person who must read the letter)
Dear Madam / Sir
Ms Gerda Fortuin: Leave Pay
(what the problem is - setting out the details:)
(what the law says and applying the law to the facts:)
(put in the formula and your calculations)
(what the person you are writing to must do about it:)
(sign your letter)
Mr P. Philander
Reports are written to report back about what a person, group or committee has done.
Paralegals might have to write regular reports on their work for their management structures, for donors and partner organizations.
A community-based paralegal who is monitoring a situation in a community, for example a demonstration, should write a report on what was witnessed. This should include relevant dates, times, venue, people involved, etc.
Office-bearers in an organisation should also write regular reports, for example a treasurer can write a monthly report on the finances of the organization, a community liaison person should write a brief report on meetings attended on behalf of the organization and the outcomes of those meetings. Report-writing is a very important communication tool which enables people to share information in a structured way and it means everyone is kept informed on what is happening.
Whenever you write a report remember to follow certain planning steps:
Here is a simple outline for a report for donors (after they have given money):
Reports to your own members or to a community
These reports are usually given verbally in a meeting. Here is a useful outline to make sure you come across clearly:
Chairperson's Annual Report 2011
Media is an important communications tool that can be used to help organisations communicate with other people. Examples of media that can be used are pamphlets, posters, newsletters, badges, banners, T-shirts, newspapers, radio and television.
How can you use the media?
You can use media to:
Making media includes, creating posters, pamphlets, drama shows with the purpose of communicating a message to people. It is important to know what your aim is when you decide to use media. For example, if you are planning a pamphlet or a poster you must think about:
The design of the pamphlet or poster is also very important. Remember these things:
The pamphlet must include the name of the organisation who produced the pamphlet, an address and who printed the pamphlet.
You must get permission from the local council in your area if you want to put up any posters in public. In many areas you have to pay a deposit.
Newsletters are the newspapers of the organisation. Newsletters usually come out regularly, for example four times per year, or every two months. They take a lot of work to produce.
Before deciding to have a newsletter you should decide if:
Websites are an important source of information for people wanting to find out more about an organisation. It is therefore also an important communications tool. It is important if you have a website to ensure it is kept up to date with online newsletters, resources, contact details, and so on.
This section looks at how you can develop your administrative skills as a paralegal. Administrative skills can involve the following:
(See Checklist: Best practices for paralegal case-workers)
Filing means keeping information (papers, letters, addresses) in a safe place. You file information by arranging it in a certain order, so that you or anyone else can find it quickly.
Filing helps you to decide:
Filing is important because it:
The important things to file include:
Filing should be done according to a carefully planned method.
You need the following pieces of equipment for filing:
When you start a filing system you need to decide how you want to file. Do you want to file in alphabetical order (for example, using surnames) or in date order (according to the months in the year), or according to issues (such as grants / HIV/Aids / housing development / etc). Each organization is different. You should keep your filing system simple and easy for all to operate.
Just as you keep records of meetings and letters, you also need to keep the records of the organisation's money. Bookkeeping means keeping records of all the money that you collect and all the money that you spend.
Always keep every piece of paper connected with money, such as invoices, receipts and cancelled cheques.
The books you keep must show:
You keep books so that members can always find out what happens to the money. You need to know how much money you have and how much you still need to collect.
When you put money into a bank, the bank opens an account for you. When you open a new account you must know:
The easiest kind of account for an organisation to use is a cheque or current account. The committee of your organisation decides who is allowed to sign for money. The bank will only give money to those people whom they know are allowed to sign for money. There should be at least two (2) signatories to the account. This means two signatories must sign before money can be withdrawn from the account. The two signatories should be members of the management or executive committee who are usually available to sign cheques. It is better not to have any of the paid workers as signatories.
The cheque book is used to draw money out of the account. Only those signatories who have authority to sign your organisation's cheque can sign a cheque. Cheques can also be used to pay someone directly, such as for rent or electricity and are usually used for payments over R50. Money can also be transferred electronically into people’s accounts but if you want to implement an electronic system you will need to put strict guidelines and clear restrictions as to who will have the authority to do these transfers.
Cash can be taken out of the bank to make small payments, such as for stamps, tea, paper and so on. This money is called petty cash.
Putting money into the account - Putting money into the account is called making a deposit. When you deposit money you fill in a form at the bank called a deposit slip. A copy of the deposit slip will be given to you. You must file this for your records.
The most important books that you must keep for your daily records are:
Receipts - When anyone hands any money into the organisation you must give them a receipt. This receipt proves that money was handed in. You give the original receipt to the person who gave in the money, and the duplicate is left in your receipt book.
When you receive money you should deposit it in the bank as soon as possible. It must never be used as petty cash.
- Petty cash
You should keep some money in the office for small payments. If you need R100 for stamps, tea or milk, you will use petty cash to make these payments.
How does petty cash work?
All the petty cash that is spent must be recorded on a petty cash voucher.
The receipts or invoices or cash slips that you get when you pay for something must be kept. These slips should be pinned onto the petty cash vouchers.
The petty cash book
At the end of each month the treasurer must record the information from all the vouchers into the petty cash book. You can use an ordinary school exercise book for the petty cash book. At the end of the month, the petty cash book must be balanced.
To do this you must:
- The cash book
At the end of each month all the records you keep during the month are recorded in one book called the CASH BOOK. This includes all bank deposit slips, cheques, receipts and petty cash. You can buy cash books at stationery shops.
The deposit slips are the records of the income.
The cheques and the petty cash book are the records of the expenditure.
The income and expenditure are recorded in the cash book.
The whole of the left hand page is the INCOME side of the cash book. The whole of the right hand side page is the EXPENDITURE side.
In this example there are 5 main columns on the income left-hand page:
The amount from each receipt must be written in the correct analysis column. The amount is also written under bank when you deposit the money (see example below).
All the cash and cheque payments and bank charges are recorded on the expenditure page. This is the right hand page of the cash book.
In this example there are 5 main columns on the expenditure page:
All expenditure must be written in the correct analysis column and under bank. Bank charges are always recorded under 'sundries'.
- Balancing the cash book
After you have recorded the income and expenditure, you need to work out how much money is left over at the end of the month. This is the balance. To get the balance, subtract the expenditure from the income.
For example, if your total income for May 2011 was R12 571 and the total expenditure was R10 305. To find out how much money was left over subtract R10305 from R12 571.
The balance is R2 266. The balance in your cash book should be the same as the balance in your bank account.
- Adding up the analysis columns
The analysis columns tell us what kind of expenditure and what kind of income there was. The analysis columns help us to answer questions like 'how much money did we get from subs from members in May 2009. To answer this kind of question you need to find the totals for each analysis column.
The treasurer must give a monthly report to the management or executive committee on the income and expenses of the organisation for that month. All the books should be up-to-date for the reportback, for example, the petty cash book and the monthly cash book. The treasurer should have all the cash slips, bank statements, cheque book stubs, invoices, petty cash vouchers, receipts and so on, at the meeting in case there are questions from the committee.
All telephone books work in ALPHABETICAL ORDER.
All government departments for national and provincial sphere, are listed at the back of the telephone directory. The government departments are listed alphabetically. If there is no number for the department you want in your regional telephone directory, phone 1023 and get the number of the nearest office.
Metropolitan councils and their departments are also listed at the back of the telephone directory, for example, the Western Cape directory will have contact details of the Cape Town Metropolitan Council and its departments.
Areas that fall outside the metropolitan areas not listed at the back of the telephone directory with the other government departments. They are listed under 'M' alphabetically with all the other telephone numbers in the directory. For example, the municipal council for Mtubatuba is listed under 'M' for municipality in the telephone directory for that area.
All hospitals are listed under 'H' with all the other numbers in the directory. The hospitals are then listed alphabetically under 'H'. Doctors are listed under 'Medical' alphabetically by name.
All emergency service numbers are listed on one of the first few pages at the front of the directory. If you are using a directory which has many different towns listed in it, then the emergency numbers for each town will appear at the beginning of each of the towns.
There are some things you can do to make meetings go well:
Chairing a meeting means facilitating the aims of the meeting.
- At the start of the meeting
The chairperson starts by reading the agenda and asking whether there are any additions to the agenda. Ideally, the agenda should have been circulated by the secretary to all people attending the meeting at least a week before the meeting takes place. This seldom happens so it is polite to ask the committee at the start of the meeting whether they have anything to add to the agenda.
Important things and things that can be discussed quickly should be discussed first.
An agenda looks like this
- During the meeting
Everyone must get a chance to talk. The chairperson must not do all the talking, and must not allow people to interrupt each other or to talk at the same time. The chairperson must make sure that everyone sticks to the topic.
The chairperson must work out how much time to spend on each discussion, and stop people from wasting time.
- At the end of the meeting
The chairperson must summarise what happened at the meeting. This means going over the important points that were discussed and decisions that were made. Everyone must know what they promised to do and by when it must be done.
- Preparing for the next meeting
The chairperson asks members when, where and what time the next meeting will be held.
It is the secretary's job to take minutes at the meeting. If the secretary is not present, then the chairperson should ask someone else at the meeting to take minutes. Minutes are an important way of keeping a record of what decisions were taken at a meeting.
After the meeting the minutes must be typed or written up neatly. A copy should be given or sent to all the committee members.
At the beginning of the next meeting, the secretary reads out the minutes of the previous meeting. The main purpose of this is to note 'matters arising': those matters that the previous meeting decided must be finalised or discussed in this next meeting, and tasks that people had to do.
There is always too much to do and too little time to do it in. Time management is a skill that can help you to organise how to use your time. It can help you to make extra time so that you can do more things - without feeling that you have too much to do.
A diary is the most important tool you have when you start to manage your time.
To manage the way you use time, you must know what your commitments are, for example to your family, your friends, your job, your organisational work outside of your job.
Problems happen when the demands from different commitments clash. So you need to plan your time.
To do this you must start by identifying your regular commitments and drawing up a list of the demands each commitment makes on you. All your other commitments must be fitted around these routine commitments. Write them in your diary.
Think ahead about all these non-routine things that will happen, so that you start planning for them now (for example, a friend's wedding, an evaluation of your organisation, and so on).
What are the things that impact on your time?
Most people waste time in similar ways. Some examples of common time-wasters are:
You can identify your own time-wasters and write them down. Then think of ways to avoid these time-wasters.
When you have many different demands on your time, you must decide which ones to do and how to do them. There are three questions you can ask.
If you are too busy to do something, or it is inappropriate for you to do it, then you should hand the task to someone else. This is called delegating.
You must also plan your use of time and set your objectives. Objectives are the things that you plan to achieve. If you are clear about your objectives you can do things in a useful order more easily. Plan your objectives as:
This section looks at two important development skills which are very important for paralegal work. By 'development skills', we mean skills that contribute to building and empowering communities. These are:
Most of us deal with some or other negotiation every day of our lives. The paralegal will constantly be involved in negotiating on behalf of clients.
Negotiation takes place when two or more people or groups who have a conflict try come together to agree on how best to resolve this conflict. This might mean that one side must compromise. Usually it means that both sides compromise so that they can reach a settlement. This is called a ‘win-win’ situation.
The main purpose of being a negotiator is to get the best settlement possible for yourself or for the person or group that you are representing. To do this, a negotiator needs certain skills such as:
A union official negotiates with the manager of a farm about the right of workers to join the union. The union official is very emotional because the manager is threatening to dismiss the workers. The union official also believes that the manager is not concerned about the workers and that he is cruel and immoral.
The manager is also very emotional. He believes that the union official is trying to take over the farm. He is worried about financial losses, and believes that as soon as workers join a union they will go on strike. He believes that all workers are lazy and only want money to spend on alcohol.
In this example there are many conflicting emotions, prejudices, and values between the two sides. This will affect negotiations between the two parties.
Steps in planning and preparing for a negotiation
(a) Identify the issue
(b) Define your objectives
Work out your key points and what you want to achieve in the negotiation
(c) Be clear about your mandate
As a paralegal you will be representing either a person or a group in negotiations. You must know what you mandate is from that person or group. In other words, you must know exactly what they want and how much they are prepared to compromise.
(d) Selecting a negotiation team
It is usually better to have more than one person in a negotiating team.
(e) Getting to know the other side
You need to have as much information as possible about the people in the party you are negotiating against. For example, you need to know what their interest and needs are in the issue, their strengths, weaknesses, problems and pressures.
(f) Plan your actual presentation
Organise all your information you have gathered in a logical format so that it can be used in the negotiation.
Steps in the process of negotiation:
Example of the stages of the negotiation process
Negotiating to get an employee’s job back
You are representing an employee who has been dismissed. You have to negotiate with the manager of the company where she was working.
Getting a mandate
The employee wants her job back.
Preparing and planning for the negotiation
Meeting or contacting the other side
Going back to the person or group you are representing
Putting the settlement into practice
Where two conflicting parties cannot reach agreement on the issue causing the conflict, they can agree to ask a third party, a mediator, help them reach a solution. A mediator is a person who acts as a facilitator between the parties but does not make a decision about who is right or wrong. So, a mediator is not a judge. The mediator goes on assisting both sides until the parties themselves come to an agreement. If it is clear that the parties are not going to reach an agreement, the mediator might have to withdraw from the process. The parties will then have to find another way to resolve their conflict, for example, by using arbitration or going to court. ( See Settling disputes outside of court)
The main job of a mediator is to keep the parties in the negotiation communicating with each other. To do this the mediator must get the trust and confidence of both parties and keep this trust by always being objective. The mediator must try and find out exactly what the problem or conflict is about. When the two sides meet together the mediator must encourage both sides to be realistic about what they want from the other side and what they are prepared to give.
If you representing a person or group at a mediation you need to prepare for the mediation in the same way as for a negotiation.
You should be flexible when you plan a mediation session. For example, a more informal mediation between two neighbours needs a different approach compared to a mediation between a consumer and a company.
Below is an example of a mediation session. This example is for a formal mediation session around a conflict between two organisations, parties or groups. You need to allow time for translation, for each side to caucus (speak among themselves), or to give the mediator time to meet both sides separately. (See Checklist: Mediation code of conduct, Checklist: Tips for Mediators)
Outline for a mediation practice session
Explain the structure and aims of the mediation practice session
|2.||Opening of mediation:
|3.||Statement of positions:
|4.||Finding common ground (things that both sides agree on):
(Note: if there is very little common ground at this point, this might be a good time for the mediator to speak to both sides separately.)
Give both sides a chance to caucus on how they feel about suggested solutions.
|7.||Closure of mediation:
In an arbitration, a third party, acceptable to both parties, is called in to help the parties resolve the conflict. The difference between an arbitration and a mediation is that in an arbitration, the arbitrator is called on to make a decision about who is right or wrong. In other words, the arbitrator acts like a judge. The arbitrator chairs the hearing at which both parties are present, listens carefully to both sides of the story, listens to any witness, and looks at any documents which might be produced as evidence. He or she then goes through all the evidence and decides who wins the arbitration. The arbitrator writes down the reasons for his or her decision in a judgment and gives this to the parties.
Before the arbitration takes place the parties should agree in writing on the parameters of the arbitrator’s powers. For example, will the arbitrator’s decision be final or will there be a right of appeal. Usually the parties agree that the decision of the arbitrator is final. This means the parties must obey this decision and the losing party cannot appeal against the decision.
An arbitrator should use proper legal principles to interpret the evidence, but the arbitration process need not be as formal as in a court.
(See Arbitration by the CCMA or Bargaining Council)
Facilitation skills for community education and training
Community education usually takes place in interactive workshops where the person running the workshop acts as a facilitator rather than a trainer.
Ask the question: 'What are you trying to achieve with this workshop?'
People want to have a better understanding of things that are a part of their lives and their own experiences must be part of what they learn. So when you introduce a new idea, you must link it to things that people know about.
Formal inputs which are too long can become very boring. There are many interesting ways of passing on information to people, for example, role-plays, problem-solving exercises, debates, videos and demonstrations.
It is much better to talk to people in their home language. If this is not possible use plain language and translate if necessary.
People learn better when they take part in the action. It is harder for people to participate in big groups. To keep people's concentration, use methods that involve people, such as small group discussions and buzz groups.
After the workshop you may need to do follow-up work or more workshops. All the people taking part should help you assess the workshop to decide whether there is a need for follow-up work or workshops, and how this should happen.
You can plan and structure a workshop according to the following guidelines:
Why are you running the workshop?
What are its aims?
Workshops must be planned so that they have direction and also so that something practical comes out at the end.
Who is the workshop for?
How many people will come?
If it is a big group, then you need to plan for smaller group sessions during the workshop. A group of more than 30 people is difficult to handle and makes it harder for everyone to participate in a way that is meaningful to them.
(link to point 2)
Which language or languages will you use?
What level of language will be best for the workshop?
Will you need translation? Who will do the translating?
Translation takes a lot of time and skill. It must be planned and not left to the last minute.
4. Time and venue
(link to point 2)
When is the best time for running the workshop?
How long should it run for?
Where is the most suitable venue?
Work out what facilities you will need, for example enough room or quiet smaller spaces for small group work. People should always be able to sit around in a circle at the venue. Make all the practical arrangements, for example, booking a venue, catering, seating arrangements, transporting the participants, having a crèche for children, and so on.
(link to points 1 and 2)
What will you cover in the workshop and in how much detail?
You can divide your workshop into the following sections:
6. Methods (link to point 5)
How will you get the message to people?
What workshop methods will help you to achieve this?
Decide how much time each part of the workshop will need.
(See Workshop methods)
7. Facilitators and resources
Who will run the different parts of the workshop?
What resources will they need to run the workshop effectively?
Prepare the resources you will need in the workshop, for example, inputs, small group questions, handouts and charts.
These are some examples of workshop methods.
Go-arounds - In a go-around everyone in the circle gets a chance to speak, for example, to introduce themselves, saying their name and organisation.
Wordwheels - Ask people to stand in two circles of equal numbers, one inside the other, so that each person in the inside circle faces someone in the outside circle. Ask people to introduce themselves to each other. After a minute or two, you ask the outside person to move one place to the right. Then ask people to do a second introduction or to say something about themselves or their work.
Icebreakers - Icebreakers are ways of getting people to loosen up and relax. For example, ask people to shake hands and introduce themselves to everyone in the group in two minutes. You can also try things like singing, playing games or warm-up exercises.
Expectations - Ask people to say what they want out of the workshop (their expectations) using the go-around or wordwheel method.
Finalising the programme - After hearing the expectations of the participants, summarise the aim of the workshop. Then go through the workshop programme (structure) which should already be written up on newsprint on the wall. Allow some time for questions or changes that people may want to make.
- Big group (plenary) methods
Formal inputs (talks or lectures) - A talk by one person should not go on longer than 15 or 20 minutes. The input can be split between two people. Inputs should be kept as simple and practical as possible, and use charts, handouts and plenty of examples.
Big group (plenary) discussions - There are different times in a workshop when you can have a big group discussion, for example, after small groups report back, or when the big group must decide on something. In a big workshop, it is better to keep the time for big group discussions short and to make more use of different small group methods
Speaking from experience - Ask one of the participants to talk about his or her direct experience of the issue or problem you are discussing in the workshop.
Case-study input - Give a short input on how a particular problem or issue was handled before and on what lessons can be learnt from this experience. If available, use photos, press-clippings or videos to explain the case-study.
Drama - A prepared and well-practised play (drama) is a good way of highlighting particular issues or processes, for example, acting out the steps involved in a forced removal.
Role-play - The role-play can also be used to act out everyday problems. A role-play is different from a drama because you get people in the workshop to act a part without letting them practise beforehand. Afterwards you assess their responses to being thrown into a situation. For example, role-playing a house being raided.
Debate - In a debate you make people take up different positions on a particular issue or proposal. Have a discussion after the debate and give each side an equal chance to answer the points that came up in the debate.
Buzz groups - In buzz groups you ask each person in the circle to turn to their 2 neighbours and to discuss something for a short time (usually 5 or 10 minutes). Then from the chair you do a quick go-around to get feedback by asking someone from each group to report back one point, and then other groups to only add on new points.
Wordwheels - You can also use the wordwheel method to discuss questions in a big group.
Small group methods
Small group discussions are an important part of all workshops.
After any long presentation (for example an input, role-play or drama), break people up into small groups to discuss what they saw or heard. Small groups should have no more than 8 people. Give small groups at least 30 minutes for discussion. It is better to give groups one or two clear questions to discuss rather than a long list of questions.
Write on newsprint the main points that each group reports. You can also ask each group to write a very short summary of their discussion on newsprint. Put this up for everyone to see.
These are methods you can use to improve small group discussions:
Go-arounds - The go-around method works very well in small groups. Go around in the circle giving each person a chance to talk. Do not let people interrupt or disagree with each other until everyone in the group has had their chance to speak.
Problem-solving and tasks- Give each group a very practical problem or task to work on. Ask the group to give a step-by-step approach to the problem and to write this down on newsprint. Write out the problems or questions for each group on a piece of paper beforehand and give this to the group facilitator. For example, you can ask small groups to develop a short drama around the issue, or to draw a map to explain the layout of an area, or to draw up a chart or pamphlet to simplify some problem or law.
A listening exercise - This is like a debate. You divide the group into two sides. Side A has to motivate for a particular solution, Side B has to motivate against it. Side A presents its argument. Before Side B responds, someone from the group must summarise Side A's argument. Then Side B gives its first argument. Side A must then summarise this point before giving next argument. The exercise then continues in the same way until the time is up. The main aim of this exercise is to encourage people to listen to the arguments of others and to learn how to summarise important points in a short time.
The two main problems concerning language in a community workshop situation are what language to use and the level of the language.
- Choice of language - Part of your planning for the workshop, should include the language you are going to use and whether you need translation. Translation could be in full, in other words, point by point, or it could be a summary after a whole section.
- Level of language
The success or failure of a community workshop can rest on the level of language used. When planning the workshop it is important to identify your workshop audience and what level of language you should aim for. These are some basic guidelines:
Written materials should be easy for the audience to read and understand. These are some of the ways to make written materials easier to read:
These are examples of workshop resources which can be used during workshops or after workshops for people to take away and read:
Evaluation and assessment
Evaluation is a process where a facilitator gets feedback from participants about how they experienced the workshop. Assessment is a process for measuring what participants have learnt and whether they have achieved their objectives (for the workshop).
Evaluation is about judging the overall value or worth of your workshop. By using various evaluation tools you can get information from participants that will tell you how they experienced the workshop, what contributed to the learning process and what hindered it. This information will help you decide whether the workshop was successful, whether it achieved what you wanted it to, and what the problems were. In this way you can build on your strengths and learn from your mistakes. So, workshop evaluations can be used for different purposes:
Your evaluation will provide you with information about one or more of the following aspects:
When do you evaluate?
As a rule, you should always include some form of evaluation in your workshop plan, either as an ongoing evaluation throughout the workshop, or at the end of the workshop.
The most common form of evaluation is probably the questionaire handed out at the end of a workshop for participants to complete and hand in. However, evaluation can be included at different stages of a workshop. For example, a ‘Mood evaluation’ can be done at the same time each day to evaluate participants' moods. This can help you pick up any negative feelings about the workshop early on, and you can try and deal with the issues that are creating the negative feellings.
While evaluation looks at the overall value and worth of the workshop, assessment has to do with measuring what participants have learnt at the workshop. Assessment measures what participants have learnt against set standards. 'Set standards' in a workshop programme are the learning objectives defined at the beginning of the programme. The learning objectives should say clearly what the participants should be able to do at the end of the workshop and the assessment helps to see whether they have actually achieved this.
In a workshop on child abuse and human rights protection mechanisms, the learning objectives are for participants at the end of the workshop to be able to:
So, by the end of the workshop, participants should be able to do what is described in the objectives. They could write a test or complete an assignment to determine whether or not these learning objectives have been achieved.
In order to see whether participants have achieved the objectives, you will measure one of more of the following:
At the end of a workshop on managing an advice centre, participants should be able to:
Your assessment of the learning in these workshops could be to set a test where participants have to draw up a budget for a specific case-study set or do an assignment where they draw up a budget for a specific project.
At the end of a workshop on the rights of refugees, participants should be able to:
Your assessment of learning in this workshop could include a test where participants have to list the rights that apply to refugees, explain how they would apply these rights in their own case work and define positive steps that can be taken to stop discrimination against refugees in their own community.
When do you assess?
You do not always have to include assessment in your training workshop. It all depends on the nature and the purpose of the workshop.
You need to be cautious if you do decide to include assessment in your workshop. Adults are not used to being assessed and may feel threatened. So, if you are planning to do an assessment you should discuss this with the participants at the beginning of the workshop - they need to understand why it is necessary and how it can help them.
You can find the contact persons, addresses and telephone numbers for organisations that provide training and support for paralegals under Resources.
Paralegals working in advice centres are there to serve the community by giving people easier access to the law and to social services. An advice centre will try to help people who have problems by giving them advice, referring them to an organisation that can help them, or taking up the case on their behalf. The advice centre tries to help people learn about their rights and in this way give them the confidence to try and sort out their own problems in the future. It does this in the following ways:
An advice centre should have strong links with the community which it serves so that it is always aware of the needs of that community. Usually the management committee of the advice centre consists of members elected by the community. An advice centre should also create useful relationships with other services, institutions and organisations, for example, the magistrates office, different welfare services, and so on. Factors to consider when setting up the advice centre include the following:
Consulting the community
Setting up an advice centre begins with consultations with organisations in a community. Organisations from the community should meet to discuss the need for an advice centre and to decide on its purpose. The community must decide whether it needs to be serviced by an advice centre, and the organisations must decide whether they will give the advice centre their commitment and support. There must be clarity about how the advice centre will link to the services being offered by other community organisations, municipality and government departments so that there is no conflict or competition for resources.
Setting up a managing structure for the Advice Centre
Once the community has decided that they need to have an advice centre, a committee must be elected to set this up. This committee can be called a steering committee. Its job will be to set up and guide the advice centre in its early stages before a proper management committee is elected. The Constitution must state exactly what portfolios the management committee should consist of, how its members will be elected and its powers and functions. (See Constitutions). The following are examples of different types of committees:
The type of committee and its accountability to the community depends on the conditions in each area as well as the available resources.
In a good structure everyone knows what each person must do and everyone knows what is happening in the organisation, who to ask for what information, and who must do specific tasks. Good structures make it more difficult for a few people to take advantage of the organisation, for example, to control the money.
In organisations such as an advice centre, the management committee consists of office bearers who are responsible for the day-to-day management. This includes the chairperson, vice-chairperson, secretary, treasurer and ad hoc members. To decide what office bearers your committee needs, start by listing the work the committee must do. Then you can decide what office bearers you need to do each part of the work.
Before electing office bearers, it is a good idea to discuss what job each office bearer will do and what kind of person will be good for that job. For example, a treasurer must be able to do things like basic bookkeeping - understanding bank accounts, writing receipts and so on. Office bearers are responsible for the following tasks:
Sub-committees - These are small committees which are accountable to the management committee. For example, fundraising sub-committee, project sub-committee, and so on.
Portfolios - individuals are usually given specific portfolios that they take responsibility for, for example newsletter editor, press liaison person, public relations.
Before an organisation like an advice centre writes and approves a constitution, it must be clear:
These things must be carefully discussed in order to see whether they are appropriate to the needs of the community. This means an organisation can exist for some time before it is ready to finalise its constitution. A draft constitution can be discussed with the various stakeholders and then finally approved and adopted by the highest decision-making body.
A constitution is a set of rules and regulations that govern the structures of an organisation and how it should function. Organisations need constitutions so that people are clear about:
The Constitution should be clear and simple so that members understand their rights and resopnsibilities, leaders understand their mandate and how to be accountable and members fo the public understand why the organisation exists and how it operates.
In law the constitution is called the 'founding document' and it is legally binding on the executive and members of the organisation.
The Non-profit Organisation Act (NPO Act) has detailed and clear sections on what needs to be included in the constitution of a nonprofit organisation if it wants to register under the act. (See Non-profit organizations Act)
The name of the organisation.
Some organisations like an advice centre may not be membership-based organisations. so they will not include a membership section.
Structures could be:
('Quorum' means that a certain number of members must be present at a meeting if any decisions are to be made. For example, a constitutions may say that at least two-thirds of the committee must be present at any committee meeting. Here a quorum will be two-thirds of the total number of the committee.)
A constitution with all these parts would be very long and involved. Below is an example of a very simple constitution. You must draw up your constitution to suit the needs of your organisation.
Constitution of the Karoo Rural Advice Service
The aims and objectives of the Karoo Rural Advice Service are to:
The Management Committee is made up of a Chairperson, Vice-chair, Secretary, Treasurer and 3 other members. Office bearers will be elected at the AGM. If there are vacancies between AGMs, elections will take place at General Meetings.
The powers and duties of the Management Committee are as follows:
Advice workers in KRAS are accountable to the Management Committee for their activities. Workers must submit monthly reports to the Management Committee.
The Management Committee has the right to investigate the actions or attitude of any staff member who acts against the aims and objectives of the organisation.
The Treasurer is responsible for all accounting and money matters of KRAS. The Treasurer must produce quarterly financial statements to the Management Committee. An audited financial statement must be presented at every AGM.
The constitution can be changed by a two-thirds majority of a General Meeting.
Only the General Meeting can dissolve the advice centre.
Income is the money an organisation receives. Expenses are the amounts of money an organisation pays out. A budget sets out the amounts the organisation expects its income and expenses to be for a fixed period of time, such as a year. In other words, the budget tells you how much money the organisation thinks it will need to do its work in the next one to three years, where it hopes some of the money will come from, and how much money it still needs to find. The Management Committee must decide what should be included in the budget. Someone - usually the treasurer - must be given the job of drawing the draft budget up. The Management Committee - or the highest decision-making body- then has to approve this.
Once the budget has been prepared, it needs to be checked and discussed by other members of the executive. Then it must be approved by the trustees, management committee or whoever has authority in the organisation.
There is no fixed rule about this. A budget can cover any time from months to years. With an overall budget for an organisation, you need to budget for at least three years. This shows a sense of commitment and continuity.
If you are preparing a budget for more than one year, you must remember to add on a percentage to cover the cost of living increase for each year. This is called 'inflation'. So, if salaries cost R60 000 in 2011, they should cost R66 000 in 2012 if the cost of living goes up 10%. Find out what the cost of living is by reading the financial section of the newspapers or by talking to an accountant.
In preparing a budget for more than a year, you need to remember that some projects could expand. The office may also set up new projects, bring out a new publication, get new staff and new equipment.
Before you can work out what your organisation's expenses will be, and how much money you will need, you must be clear about the organisation's objectives, and how you plan to achieve them in the period for which you are preparing a budget.
Once you are clear about what work the organisation will do for the time the budget covers, you must write down everything that costs the organisation money. Start off with a list of everything you can think of. Afterwards you can put the items into groups or categories.
So your final list could look like this:
telephone and ADSL lines
internet service provider
cost of venues
accommodation for participants
|rent / purchase
repair and maintenance
How much does each category cost?
When you have worked out what you spend money on, you can work out how much each item and each category costs. You can use your own records to work out the costs.
If stationery has cost your Advice Centre R500 per month in the past year in the Ezikweni Advice Centre and inflation is at 10%, what should you budget for in the following year?
R500 + 10% inflation = R550 per month
But the records show that the number of clients seen by the Advice centre over the past six months increased by 10% every month. This means there will be an increase in spending of approximately 10% on stationery.
The calculation will then look like this:
R500 + 10% inflation
R550 + 10% increase in spending due to increase in numbers of clients
R605 x 12 months = R7260 per annum
The amount that you should budget for in the next year is R7260.
If this is the first time that your organisation is preparing a budget, you should make a list of the items and categories you think you will have to spend money on.
Remember to include those items which you will need in the beginning, but that you will not have to buy again, such as desks, chairs, kettle, filing cabinets, rent deposit, telephone installation, advertising jobs, computer and printer. This is called capital outlay.
Running costs are those costs that you spend on a regular basis to keep the organisation going.
It is important to include a section in your budget on expected income. This means the income that you expect to get from your own fundraising, or membership fees and so on.
You are then telling the donor what your needs are, and also how you expect to pay for these needs.
When you have calculated your expected expenses and income, the next step is to write your budget down in a way that is useful for the organisation and for donors.
For the organisation's own use it should be possible to understand, at any time, how amounts were decided upon and what they are.
Motivations for particular items in the budget do not have to be written into the budget, but they can be part of the written proposal, or they can be attached to the budget as notes.
Where you think that something in the budget may be unclear to the reader, it is worth including a note to explain it. For example, when in the first year of the budget you have a fairly small amount, but in the second year it is much bigger, you should have a note explaining the big increase.
If you are preparing a budget to send to donors, you will have to send certain other documents with it.
These could include:
Example of a simple budget for an advice centre
In order to calculate the amount that you can spend each month, you must divide your total annual budget by 12 months. So, for example, if your total expenditure budget is R115 200 per annum, then you should be spending about R9 600 per month.
An audited statement is the complete record of all your expenditure and income for a year as shown by your bookkeeping system, and checked and approved by a qualified accountant.
Organisations should have their bookkeeping audited (checked and approved by an accountant) at the end of each financial year. The financial year is different from the ordinary year. It does not go from January to December, but can be from 1st April of one year to 31st March of the next. This will differ between organisations.
The audited statement shows exactly how much money was spent in the year, what it was spent on, where the income came from and whether you spent more than you had, or less. Donors also use the audited statement to check how good the financial management in your organisation is before they give you any more money.
When people give money to an organisation they want to know that there are budgets and structures in place to manage the money properly. Monthly and annual bookkeeping records must be kept to show clearly what money is collected and what money is spent. So, all these things need to be in place before embarking on a fund-raising initiative. It is advisable for an organization like an advice centre to register with the Department of Social Development as a non-profit organization (NPO). This gives the organisation credibility with donors and the community. There are also other advantages offered by the government to organizations who do register. We will first look at the Act itself and then at the process of registering as an NPO.
The Non-profit Organisations Act (the NPO Act) has repealed the Fund-raising Act except for chapter 2 of the Fund-raising Act which deals with disaster and relief funds.
The NPO Act says an NPO is a trust, company or other association of people -
So, in terms of the Act, NPOs are civil society organisations (in other words, they are not part of government) that have self-governing boards which are accountable to their owners or member. To summarise, NPOs -
The NPO Act encourages organisations to register as NPOs with the Department of Social Development. Organisations can benefit from being registered because it formalizes the institution and in this way makes them more credible to donors and to the public. There are also certain benefits from government for organizations that register. However, it is not compulsory to register as an NPO in order to exist. Registration is a choice but in the long run it will benefit the organization. (See Resources: NPO registration)
The main objectives of the NPO Act are to -
The Act aims to meet these objectives by allowing organisations to register with the Directorate of the Department of Social Development. This is called voluntary registration. (See Resources: NPO registration)
The NPO Act encourages section 21 companies, trusts and voluntary associations to register with The Directorate in the Department of Social Development. However, organizations only have to register if they want to and if they meet certain requirements, which are:
The purpose of voluntary registration is to make NPOs more accountable and transparent to the public by prescribing certain rules on how they must function.
NPOs that register with the Department of Social Development will qualify for certain benefits and allowances from the government. In the future it is possible that the government will not pay benefits or allowances to an NPO unless it is registered with the Department. The following acts also say that NPOs must be registered under the NPO Act in certain circumstances:
Before applying to register as an NPO the organization must check that their founding documents are in order and meet the requirements of section 12(2) of the NPO Act.
The founding documents are:
NPOs should then send two copies of their founding documents together with the application form to the NPO directorate.
Once an NPO has registered with the department, it must follow certain procedures. The most important procedures are:
The Tax laws Amendment Act No 30 of 2000 has amended the Income Tax Act No 58 of 1962 (the Tax Act). There are two main tax benefits for NPOs under the Tax Act:
How to register as a Non-profit Organization (NPO)
An NPO can choose to be a section 21 company, a trust or a voluntary association.
Section 21 company
An organisation that is not-for-profit can be set up as a Section 21company under the Companies Act No 61 of 1973. A section 21 company is similar to a normal profit company but it is not allowed to operate to make a profit and it can't share the profits out amongst the company members.
Large organisations which run big programmes and budgets and have got lots of staff usually set up a section 21 company. It is a difficult structure to set up because there are complicated procedures and legal requirements to follow.
Section 21 companies have a separate or independent legal identity which is distinct from its members. This means -
A company consists of members and directors. The members appoint the directors who have executive powers. The directors are responsible for the day-to-day running of the company.
All companies, including section 21 companies, are registered with the Registrar of Companies under the Companies Act. To register as a section 21 company your organisation must:
The founding documents for a section 21 company are the Memorandum and the Articles of Association. The memorandum sets out the purpose of the NPO and the Articles of Association say how it will work.
An organisation can be set up as a Trust under common law and the Trust and Property Control Act (No 57 of 1988). It is easier to set up a Trust than a section 21 company. A trust is a written arrangement between an owner and trustees. The owner hands over property and/or funds to a group of people (called trustees) who look after the property and funds and use it for the benefit of other people (called beneficiaries) for a specific objective.
A trust is run by a Board of Trustees. A deed of Trust will say what the powers and duties are of a trust. Trustees can be paid for the work they do for the NPO.
Trusts are governed by the common law and the Trust and Property Control Act. Trusts do not have a separate legal personality. If there is a legal dispute, the trustees, not the trust, can sue or be sued. The property of the Trust is protected and the Trust Property Control Act says trust property must be kept separate from the trustees' personal property. Trusts must have their own bank accounts.
A notary public must write and attest your trust deed and the trust must be registered with the Master of the High Court. If there are any changes to trustees at any stage, then the Master must be given notice of this.
The trust deed is the founding document of a trust.
If a trust registers as an NPO under the NPO Act ( in addition to registering with the Master of the Court) it will become a body corporate with an independent legal personality.
This is the easiest and simplest structure to set up and manage. It also has the same powers and can do the same thing as a trust or Section 21 company. A voluntary association can be set up when three or more people enter into an agreement to form a non-profit organisation. Voluntary associations are best suited to small community-based organisations that do not need to own or manage large amounts of money or property and equipment. For example, a School parent association.
A voluntary association is the quickest and cheapest structure to set up.
There is usually a constitution that provides for the appointment of a group of people with executive and/or management powers.
The common law and the Communal Property Associations Act (No 28 of 1996) govern voluntary associations.
If you want to make a voluntary association an independent legal personality, the law says the constitution must specify that:
You can form a voluntary association by having a written or verbal agreement. There is no government registry that you have to register with but you can register under the NPO Act.
The written agreement of a voluntary association is called the Constitution. These are the rules which say how the organisation will run. It also says what its main purpose and objectives are, who will make the decisions and how decisions will be made.
The Constitution of a voluntary association will usually have detailed and clear sections on:
If a voluntary association wants to register as an NPO under the NPO Act it will have to follow the requirements set out in the Act. It can be an advantage to register under the NPO Act because donors generally prefer to work with organisations that have been formally and legally recognised. NPOs that have registered under the Act also have access to certain government benefits.
The following factors are guidelines to help you choose a structure for your organisation.
Each office should have an income plan for at least three years which includes a range of activities, including fundraising.
Step 1: What to do?
Step 2: When to do it?
Step 3: Where to do it?
Step 4: What extras to offer?
Step 5: Publicity
Step 6: Who does the work?
You will need people to do the preparation work and to work on the day.
Without committed workers no fundraising event can be a success. There must be a co-ordinator who takes overall responsibility. But there are also hundreds of small jobs and the co-ordinator cannot do them all. The co-ordinator must delegate many of the jobs. His or her job is to make sure that everyone else does what they promised.
Step 7: Evaluation
When it is all over the money is counted. Then it is important to ask:
Funding proposals can be written for the organization as a whole or for specific projects initiated by the organization. Funding proposals can be found in newspapers, on websites, or sent via email from other organisations. It is therefore very important for the advice centre to be registered on the databases of other organisations, such as provincial forums, government departments and funders.
Calls for proposals will often provide specific guidelines and details of the infromation to be provided. Sometimes, donors will ask for an expression of interest before inviting a proposal.
Give the reader (funding agency) some information about when the organisation was formed and why it was formed. It is always useful to include figures in your motivation for funding, for example, if you are asking for funds for a literacy programme, state that there are 9 million people who cannot read.
Send your annual reports
List the expenses and income you think you will have in the next year. (See Budget)
Send your proposal with a covering letter.
If you receive funding, always send letters of thanks.
When an organisation employs people, it wants employees to have a clear idea about what the goal of the organisation is, and a commitment to fulfilling it. The employee must be clear about the job that he or she is expected to do. The organisation must also ensure that it has performed all its duties as an employer, for example, registered employees for UIF, SITE and PAYE.
What employers must do when they start a business
The contract of employment
The basis of the relationship between an employer and an employee is the employment contract. This is an agreement that spells out what the organisation expects the employee to do, and what the employee can expect from the organisation.
A formal contract of employment must be shown to the new employee. Both the new employee and the committee (or representative of the committee) responsible for running the office and making employee appointments must sign the contract.
A job description sets out the specific duties and responsibilities that go with a staff position, the skills and qualifications required for the position, and the person or structure to whom the person filling the position is accountable. The first step in drawing up a job description is to analyse exactly what is involved in the job. The second step is to write it up following certain guidelines.
(1) Analysing the job means looking at:
(2) Guidelines to writing a job description
Include the following in a job description:
A person specification covers two areas:
This includes for example having to work weekends or nights.
Discipline is any action taken by the managing committee to change unacceptable behaviour or job performance of an employee who works for the organisation.
Employees have to work and behave according to the standards set by the organisation’s Constitution and the contracts of employment. If an employee does not work according to these standards action must be taken to correct and improve the employee's performance. But if the employee's conduct or performance is very bad, the organisation may decide to dismiss the employee.Before the organisation decides what action to take, the employee must get a chance to present his or her case fully.
The organisation might decide to take any of the following kinds of disciplinary action:
The type of action taken by the organisation depends on how serious the employee's action was, and anything else in the employee's favour or against the employee. If the employee's actions seem serious enough to allow for dismissal, then the organisation must follow legal procedures.
When is a dismissal fair or unfair?
Solving disputes under the LRA
Every organisation should also have a simple Grievance Procedure that employees can use if they have a problem at work and they feel that it cannot be dealt with at a committee meeting.
Here is a formal notice to tell an employee that she or he must come to a disciplinary enquiry. The notice can be changed to suit each organisation's own needs.
Notice of a disciplinary enquiry
A disciplinary enquiry will be held on ______________ at __________________o'clock at_______________________
The enquiry is about the following alleged offence(s):
Please note that you have the right to:
Evaluation means measuring the value of what the organisation is doing. It is a way of stepping back from our work and asking ourselves: 'How are we doing? What should we change to do things better?' Different people have different ideas of progress and problems. At an evaluation session, people come together to share their ideas in an organised and planned way.
When we evaluate, it is much easier to make decisions about the future of the organisation. For example, after an evaluation it may be clear that the structure of the organisation is not working very well. Therefore, the structure will have to be changed. It may become obvious after an evaluation that the work methods being used by the employees of the organisation are not very effective. People will then have to think about ways of improving the effectiveness of the organisation.
Here are some examples of questions that can be part of an evaluation:
The reasons why we evaluate can be seen from the different reasons given around this 'wheel':
Evaluation is usually an ongoing process. This means that a day (or more) is set aside for evaluation at regular times in the year, or maybe only once a year.
Sometimes if employees have been working on a specific project, then it is worthwhile to make time for an evaluation after the project has been running for a while.
There are many different ways of evaluating in a group. The aims of evaluating should be to encourage everyone to join in actively and to get out the information and ideas that will help the organisation understand its problems in a way that will make everyone feel motivated to do something about them. Evaluations should show the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation.
The contents of this checklist are adapted from the Policy and Procedure Manual of the Black Sash. Many of the points have been summarised or changed to make them more general. You will probably still find that the practices given here do not all apply to your organisation. Use this as a guide and adapt it to suit your own needs.
Know the material in the paralegal manual and can work with it
Can give information to advice seekers based on the following primary laws:
- Labour Relations Act
- Basic Conditions of Employment Act
- Social Assistance Act and the Regulations
- Prevention of Family Violence Act
- Maintenance Act
- Divorce Act
- UIF Act
Remember: these are just examples; you must write down the laws that are relevant to your organisation's work.
- Understand the following and can work with them:
- Constitution of South Africa
- Socio-economic rights
- GEAR (government's economic policy)
(Others that may be relevant to your organsation's work_
Know the problems experienced by rural advice seekers
Know and understand how to use the State institutions supporting democracy (for example, the SA Human Rights Commission, Public Protector, etc)
Able to identify, contact and refer to the process of -
- Legal aid
- Insurance Ombudsman
- Pension Fund Adjudicator
- Consumer institutes
- Independent Complaints Directorate of SAPS, Correctional Services and other sectors
- Key bargaining councils of five main sectors presenting to the advice centre
- Small claims Court
- Magistrate's Commission and public prosecutions appeal divisions
- Know how the office administration system works in respect of:
- administration systems
- the need for co-operation amongst staff
- the need for honesty
I follow up with advice seekers to make sure that I can close a case and the matter is resolved or that the advice seeker does not need any further help.
My writing is clear for all to read.
My notes are filed in order of date received.
The name of the person is clearly written at the top of the file.
I put the files where others will know where to find them.
All letters have spelling and grammar checked.
All faxes have the fax record stapled to the letter.
I am able to identify areas where I am weak in knowledge. I feel free to acknowledge this and will either find the information myself or will ask other staff members for advice.
I am able to know what remedies to use to deal with different cases.
I am able to identify trends in the case-work. This means I can identify common problems of advice seekers, identify what is causing the problem and make the necessary interventions to deal with the problems.
This is a checklist to prepare yourself for monitoring public events or incidents like police conflict, community conflict, and registration and voting for elections:
This is a checklist for doing follow-up work after monitoring public events and incidents:
This is a checklist of rules and procedures which you can get each side to agree on before you start to run a mediation session:
This is a checklist of things you can do as a mediator to make a mediation session run better:
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