This article examines the regulation of the legal profession in South Africa from colonial times, through apartheid and into the post-apartheid period. It narrates the changing relationship between professional associations and the state, locating these events within the debates on professional self-regulation. Taking the view that professional self-regulation is as a result of “an arrangement” between professions and the state it explores the regulatory bargain struck between associa-tions and the state. The paper demonstrates that during the apartheid period the profession utilised apartheid legislation to exclude black legal professionals. How-ever, in the post-apartheid period, when the state proposed legislative interventions in order to enable access to both the profession and justice, a new regulatory bar-gain had to be negotiated.