The Society has its very early origins in the arrival in Grahamstown of JG Kotzé in 1876. His stay was brief as he went on to become the Chief Justice of the South African Republic in 1877. In 1902 Kotzé became a judge of the Eastern Districts Court and was finally Judge President from 1904 to 1913. By 1903 the Bar had nine members, including PC Gane whose translation of Voet is still used. Former members include FC Bam, who was the Judge President of the Land Claims Court; JD Cloete, DDV Kannemeyer and AG Jennett all of whom became Judges President of the Eastern Cape Division; CT Howie, who became the President of the Supreme Court of Appeal; AJ Kerr, who was a respected retired academic; L Mpati, who is the current President of the Supreme Court of Appeal; JW Smalberger who became a Judge of Appeal and on retirement was the Acting Deputy President of the Supreme Court of Appeal; JC Froneman, Justice of the Constitutional Court; LE Leach who is a Judge of Appeal.
The Society is an affilliate of the General Council of the Bar of South Africa.
The Society offers pupillage to admitted advocates who wish to hold chambers in either Grahamstown or Port Elizabeth. Pupillage is regulated by the rules of the GCB. Unless a pupil qualifies for exemption, pupillage is for a year during which time he or she is placed in the care of a mentor to gain experience in all aspects of practice. Tuition is also provided by members of the Society to prepare the pupil to sit the GCB examinations. Applications for pupillage close at the end of September, for the following year. No-one is exempted from the requirement to pass the GCB pupillage examinations.