About Us

Introducing the Bridge Group

Our History

Members of the Johannesburg Bar have traditionally established Groups, akin to sets in the English Bar. The Bridge Group was founded in 1971 in Innes Chambers, and by convention, styled themselves by their address, Group 444.  One founder member remains, Rob Wise SC, who celebrated our 40th anniversary with us in 2011.

Upon establishment, Wise recruited Anton Mostert SC to lead the Group and Richard Goldstone to join. When Mostert became a judge in 1974, Johann Kriegler SC was recruited to lead the Group, which he did until 1985 when he became a judge. In 1980, when Goldstone became a judge, Mostert returned to the Bar after his exposure of the government’s secret funding of the Citizen newspaper. He took up Goldstone’s chambers and practised until his tragic death in 1999.

Judge Fikile Bam, President of the Land Claims Court, served pupillage in 1979 with Rex Van Schalkwyk, himself a judge from 1988 – 1996. Bam was prevented from practicing in Johannesburg by the Group areas Act, and initially “returned” to the Transkei, and later joined the Legal Resources Centre in Port Elizabeth. Carol Bruyns, a founder member, and one of only a few women at the Bar in the 70s’ and early 80s’ left to pioneer the Public Defender’s office in Johannesburg. Smeath Thomas was among the eccentrics that populated the membership in the early days of the group, he was reputedly fluent in Latin and was frequently accompanied to Chambers by his Basset Hound called “Judge”.

Bridging the Divide

The High Court Precinct was the Bar’s home from 1961. In 1996 lawyers joined the migration to Sandton. Group opinion was divided on moving. The solution was to “bridge the divide” and be in the City and in Sandton. “The Bridge” was adopted as our name. The City pillar of The Bridge was lost when the Innes Chambers lease ended, but the Group still keeps a City consultation suite in Pitje Chambers. The Group is one of only four of the original 15 Groups from the City to preserve its identity after the migrations.

Eminent Members

Several members served on the Bar Council, four as chairman, including Johann Kriegler and Lewis Goldblatt
Kriegler and Goldstone served on the SCA and on the CC

Percy Blieden, Neels Claasen, Fritz Van Oosten, Piet Meyer and Roland Sutherland serve on the South Gauteng High Court

Sharmin Ebrahim serves on the Free State High Court

Robert Lagrange is a Labour Court judge

Commitment to Transformation and Diversity

The Group pioneered several transformation interventions. In 1999 it introduced the first “Junior Associate membership” which gave beginners the amenities of practice at a nominal fee for up to two years.  In 2002 it added to the pupil/ pupil master pairing, a “Silk Mentor”, and later added a junior as confidant.

Since 2003 the Group has partnered with Wits Law Clinic to facilitate pro bono work, an example of combining professional training with access to justice.