How to Become a Lawyer in South Africa

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Law is one of the prestigious profession in the country. As such, many young people often aspire to become lawyers. However, not many actually know the process of becoming a qualified lawyer in South Africa.

Law as a profession can be exciting and rewarding, however, it requires a lot of commitment and dedication. So, before you start your law career, we recommend you take a look at this article on how to become a lawyer in South Africa.

Who is a Lawyer?

A lawyer (also called attorney, solicitor, barrister, counsel, or counselor) is a licensed professional who advises and represents others in legal matters. Some duties commonly associated with a lawyer include: providing legal advice and counsel, researching and gathering information or evidence, drawing up legal documents related to divorces, wills, contracts and real estate transactions, and prosecuting or defending in court.

Types of Lawyers in South Africa

Basically, there are two kinds of lawyers in South Africa; attorneys and advocates.

Attorneys works in law firms, write contracts and meet with clients, while advocates are the ones that wear a robe and stand up to argue a case before of a judge.

When someone has a legal problem, they approach an attorney, who is expected to have a good working knowledge of the relevant legal issue at hand. When the matter goes to court the attorney has to “brief” an advocate who, based on the information and instruction given to him by the attorney, argues the matter in court.

How to Become a Lawyer in South Africa

The process of becoming a lawyer (attorney) in South Africa is very straightforward. As such, we recommend you read this article till then end to learn more.

As a law, to become a lawyer, you must obtain a law degree, have working experience in a legal setting and pass an admissions exam. Also, you must be at least 21 years of age and a citizen or legal resident of South Africa.

Obtain a Law Degree

To become a lawyer in South Africa, you need to first of all obtain a law degree. According to the country’s Attorney’s Act of 1979, you must complete a four-year bachelor’s program to earn an LLB degree. This degree is only obtainable in an accredited law school in South Africa or abroad.

If you obtain a law degree outside South Africa, you will have to contact the National Forum of Advocates (NFA) to verify whether your degree is recognised as equivalent to an LLB in South Africa.

Additionally, you can become a lawyer by first getting a Bachelor of Commerce with Law (BCom) and then completing a two year LLB program. However, this route will take you five years to become a lawyer.

Subjects required to study law in South Africa include those with general application and those that are more specific. Subjects that are needed to become a lawyer in South Africa include Foundations of South African law, South African private law, constitutional law, criminal law, intellectual property, evidence and African Customary Law. Some classes are mandatory during law school and others are elective classes that you can choose depending on your interest.

Get Working Experience

You will need to gain valuable working experience with a law firm in South Africa while you’re studying. You can apply directly to a law firm for work experience during the July or December holidays in your pre-final year of study or at the end of your second year of study.

Most of the well-known law firms in South Africa offer work experience for a two to three week period. Getting work experience is important to your CV. In also gives you the opportunity to learn how law firms operate in the country. Furthermore, it gives you an overview of different law specialties.

Articles of Clerkship

To become an attorney, you’ll need to work in a law firm under the guidance of a practising attorney. According to the Attorneys Act, a candidate attorney must successfully complete two years of his Articles of Clerkship while still attending law school part-time. Alternatively, a candidate attorney can attend law school full-time for another year.

Practical Legal Training (PLT) at a Law School

PLT is a compulsory course in practical legal training, teaching you legal skills and preparing you for your board examination. You need to complete your PLT before you can be admitted as an attorney.

Pass the Attorneys’ Admission Exam

To become a lawyer in South Africa, you’ll need to pass an attorney’s admission examination. The examination is usually written every February and July/August. The examination tests your knowledge in the following areas; Practice and Procedure, Wills and Estates, Attorneys’ Practice, Contracts and Rules of Conduct, and Legal Bookkeeping.

The attorneys’ admission exam is taken once you’ve completed six months of either real-world experience or attendance at a practical legal training course.

How Long Does it take to become a Lawyer in South Africa?

It takes a minimum of four years to obtain an LLB degree in South Africa. However, it takes five years for students with BCom or BA to complete their LLB at the university. On the other hand, some universities no longer offer a straight LLB program. These universities require students to first obtain BCom or BA degree and only offer LLB as a postgraduate degree.

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