The Origin of The Maisels Group Name
The Maisels Group is named after Israel Aaron Maisels QC (1905 to 1994), affectionately known as Issie or Issy, who was a member of the Johannesburg Bar for more than 60 years. At the time of his retirement in 1992, he was a leader of the Bar. Sir Sydney Kentridge QC said of him,
“Issy was undoubtedly the greatest advocate I have seen in action in any court in any jurisdiction in which I have practised.“
Issy Maisels first emerged into prominence in 1932 as junior counsel to the great Harry Morris KC in the notorious case of Daisy de Melker who was charged with poisoning two husbands and her son. During his illustrious career, Issy Maisels appeared in many high profile trials, the best known of which was probably The Treason Trial which commenced in 1958 before a Special Criminal Court in Pretoria. It was alleged by the Crown that the accused did attempt, or actually did prepare, to subvert or overthrow the State. The accused, all of whom were acquitted, included many prominent South Africans some of whom emerged as leaders in the post-1994 democracy.
Issy Maisels was the leader of Advocates Group 836 which took its name from its location on the 8th floor of His Majesty’s Building in Johannesburg. Shortly after The Treason Trial Issy Maisels accepted an appointment to the Southern Rhodesian Bench, Southern Rhodesia being part of the then Federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland. In his words, “There were at the time great hopes that the Federation would prove to be a success and that a society would be established where various races could live together in harmony“. As a result of political developments in Southern Rhodesia, Issy Maisels eventually felt compelled to resign his appointment. He then returned to South Africa and after a period in business returned to the Johannesburg Bar in 1970 and in particular to his former Group, Advocates Group 836, where he remained a member until his retirement.
Issy Maisels was not only an outstanding advocate but also prominent in Bar affairs. He was chairman of the Johannesburg Bar Council on four separate occasions. He was not alone in Advocates Group 836 as a prominent advocate and leader in Bar affairs. His contemporaries in Advocates Group 836 included Jack Clayden KC (who became Chief Justice of the former Federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland), Walter Pollack QC (Chairman of the Bar Council on 4 separate occasions), N Phillips SC (chairman of the Bar council in 1970), John Coaker SC (junior counsel to Issy Maisels in The Treason Trial and Chairman of the Bar Council in 1975), Herbert Vieyra SC (judge of the (then) Supreme Court), Bill Trollip SC (judge of the Appellate Division of the (then) Supreme Court), Eric Morris SC (son of the famous Harry Morris KC and leader of the Group) and Peter Schutz SC (judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal).
The Establishment of The Group
With the decision of the majority of the Johannesburg Bar to move to Sandton, a number of senior members of Advocates Group 836 established one of the pioneer groups (under the leadership of Louis Serrurier SC) which, in 2006, merged with another of the pioneer groups (under the leadership of Patrick Lane SC) to establish The Maisels Group.
In its last years at Innes Chambers, the Group was lead by David Osborne SC, who is still a door member. The Group’s commitment to Bar affairs continues to this day – Gerald Farber SC and Altus Joubert SC are former Chairmen of the Bar Council.
The Maisels Group enjoys a rich heritage. However, we are aware of the present needs of our legal system and in particular the necessity for transformation which dictates that previously disadvantaged practitioners of merit be included within our ranks. A transformation programme with this goal is currently being pursued by The Maisels Group.
In addition, a mentorship programme has been established by the Group to assist junior members. The Group is committed to the highest degree of professionalism in the practice of law.