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Two Sets of Attorneys

An attorney whom the client approaches preliminary is known as the instructing attorney. An attorney who continues the work at the instructing attorney’s instance is referred to as the correspondent (or attorney at the seat of the court)

Where a litigant resides away from the place where legal proceedings are instituted, he is entitled to employ an attorney in the place where he lives as well as the place where the proceedings are instituted. – Fannels (Pty) Ltd v Simmons NO and Another 1957 (4) SA 591 (T)

In Van der Burgh v Guardial National Insurance Co Ltd 1997 (2) SA 187 (E) there is a persuasive argument in support of the extremely valuable function in litigation of an attorney at the seat of the court who has been instructed by an attorney in another centre. The court held that it goes far beyond the correspondent merely operating as a “postbox” and indexing and paginating papers.

In Niceffek (Edms) Bpk v Eastvaal Motors (Edms) Bpk 1993 (2) SA 144 (O) at 146 C-D the court emphasised that each case had to be considered in the light of the particular circumstances of that case and that it was impossible to lay down when a fixed set of attorneys could be employed.

Depending on the circumstances, a correspondent attorney may well act just as a postbox for the purposes of service and filing of documents. This becomes a necessary requirement where rules of court require a physical address situated within the prescribed kilometers from the courthouse for service of process. The service rendered by the correspondent postbox attorney is to identify documents received, observe time limits, file at court and serve on the other side.