An introduction to paralegal services in Zambia

The Zambian Constitution enshrines the right to counsel of one’s choice, as well as a right to legal aid ‘in accordance with the law enacted by Parliament for such purpose’.  The Zambian Legal Aid Board is regulated by the Legal Aid Act 30 of 1967 (last amended in 2005). It has limited capacity to provide legal aid, only in the form of legal representation before the courts as well as legal assistance if connected to a dispute. It does not engage directly with paralegals as such – although some instances of collaboration and cooperation between paralegal NGOs and the Legal Aid Board have been established since 2011.  The Legal Aid Board has currently a total of 12 stations country wide, reaching out to all provinces in Zambia with at least one Legal Aid Board station per province.

A decision by the Legal Aid Board to grant legal aid in any case is based on the means test and the interests of justice principle. A merit test also applies in civil cases.  In 2015, the Legal Aid Board received 4,314 applications for legal aid, out of which 1,583 were granted legal assistance and representation, while the other applicants were provided with legal information and advice only. In addition, the Legal Aid Board received 1,193 cases referred by the courts of law with legal aid granted by the Judiciary.

Over 30 civil society organisations (CSOs) provide legal aid to indigent persons and vulnerable groups in Zambia. Services are mainly provided by paralegals and range from legal education in communities and correctional facilities, to legal information, advice and mediation in individual cases. Depending on their level of qualification and experience, paralegals also provide some forms of legal assistance. Some paralegals work with backing from legal practitioners, whereas others are supervised by their affiliate CSOs.

The Danish Institute for Human rights (DIHR) has funded a Legal Services Unit “one-stop shop” pilot project at the Lusaka Subordinate Court, through which three legal aid assistants (from the Legal Aid Board)196, a full-time paralegal (affiliated to a CSO) and a supervising lawyer (from the Legal Aid Board) provide legal information, education, advice, assistance and representation (the latter being provided by the legal aid assistants lawyer only) to indigent accused and other vulnerable persons, a mechanism expected to ensure greater respect of the right of the accused as well as more efficient processing of the cases in which these legal aid providers are involved.

The Law Association of Zambia established the National Legal Aid Clinic for Women to provide free legal services to indigent women and children. The clinic is present and has permanent employees and offices in all three provinces. The clinic has employed up to 10 lawyers on a full-time basis.

Paralegals in Zambia Case Study

The project was established with the aim to provide affordable legal aid to women and children.  The clinic assists in particular indigent women and children providing support, education and training skills.  The paralegals in the clinic seek to empower those women and children and do so through facilitating access to legal rights by counselling, legal representation, and legal education.  According to one study the Clinic takes around 2,500 cases to court every year.

Additional information on paralegals in Zambia

Applicable Constitutional obligations:  Constitution of Zambia, s. 18(2)(d).

Applicable Legislation: Legal Aid Act 30 of 1967 (last amended in 2005), Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education Act No.10 of 1996, Law Association of Zambia Act.

Resources: Paralegal Skills Manual by Rising Foundations Zambia for domestic use at grassroots level.

Training required: No formal training required, short courses available from Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education.

The Legal Department at Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA), Zambia WLSA has trained paralegals in the four project sites namely: Kapiri Mposhi, Monze, Kafue and Choma. The aforementioned paralegals offer legal advice to the communities and they also follow up on cases. The paralegals conduct their duties under the supervision and guidance of the Legal personnel from the Legal Department

Organizations: Plan Zambia, Legal Resources Centre Zambia, National Legal Aid Clinic for Women,
Chikumbuso Women and Orphans Project, Transparency International Zambia, Copperbelt Development Foundation Limited, Youths for Change, Sishemo Foundation, Generation Alive Zambia, Rising Foundations Zambia.