Advocate Lance Burger SC had acting stints at the Western Cape High Court in 2014 and 2017.
He was admitted as an advocate of the Cape Bar in 1995. Prior to that, he had worked in the United States as a lawyer in Seattle and was a member of the Alaska State Bar, the Louisiana State Bar and the Washington State Bar.
A maritime law expert, Burger was a member of the Maritime Law Association of South Africa, the Maritime Law Association of the United States and a member of the Disciplinary Commission of the International Sailing Federation, where he served as a judge from 2013-2016.
Burger holds an LLB from the University of Cape Town and a Masters in Law in Admiralty from Tulane University of New Orleans.
October 2017 Interview:
October 2017 – Interview synopsis
Maritime law is one of those niche areas that is still dominated by pale-males — very rarely do black or female lawyers gain experience or expertise in the area because of the skewed briefing patterns.
Advocate Lance Burger SC’s specialisation in the field was scrutinised when it came to his contribution to transformation in this area. He told Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe that 50% of the juniors he briefed were women, and of these, two had been black women.
When asked by Fiona Stewart, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s representative on the Judicial Service Commission, why there were no black or female silks at the Cape Bar who specialised in maritime work, Burger blamed it on “historical briefing patterns”.
Justice Minister Michael Masuthu noted the “wilful under-representation” of black African and female advocates at the Cape Bar and asked Burger what he, and his colleagues, were doing to ensure “credibility”?
The candidate said he was not a member of the Cape Bar Council but understood that it was considering “forcing people” to employ black lawyers and women as juniors: “I have no influence aside from speaking to my colleagues and expressing an opinion,” he told the commission.
Burger’s answer to why he did not speak an indigenous language pointed to the white middle-class bubble he inhabited: “When I grew up in the Western Cape [in the 60s and 70s] there was no Xhosa spoken… I left [for the United States in the mid-80s] and came back after 1995… I really regretted not being able to speak a black language… I tried learning but I am not a linguist… In the sense that I don’t learn languages easily.”
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng then asked Burger if he didn’t “know a gardener, domestic worker, petrol attendant” who spoke Xhosa. Burger said he employed a domestic who he “tried to get to teach” himself and his children Xhosa.
Unsurprisingly, his was unsuccessful.
Advocate Dali Mpofu pointed out that Burger had learnt English, Afrikaans and Latin for his law degree but appeared to be “passive” about learning another language or assisting in transformation. Burger said it was “not a case of shirking my duty”.
While being questioned by ANC MP Thoko Didiza, Burger revealed the sum total of his political activity during apartheid was joining the Progressive Party and running a legal advice centre on the Cape Flats while a law student.