Practising Law in South Africa
The Qualifications of Legal Practitioners Amendment Act of 1997 provides that the LLB is the universal legal qualification for admission and enrolment as an Advocate or Attorney. Normally those who wish to enter private practice as advocates are required to become members of a Bar Association by undergoing a period of training in pupilage with a practicing member of the Bar and by sitting an admission examination. Before admission as an attorney, an LLB graduate must serve as a candidate attorney with a practicing attorney. Attendance at a practical legal training course, or performance of community service may reduce the period required to serve articles. Thereafter candidates write a professional examination set by the relevant provincial Law Society. The Act of Parliament regulating admission to practice law is being revised and a new law is expected in the near future. This may change the requirements set out above.
Language proficiency in the legal profession
There are no statutory language requirements for the practice of law, and the completion of courses in Latin is no longer a requirement for the LLB degree at this University. Language proficiency in South African languages is, however, very important for the study and practice of law in South Africa. Prospective lawyers are encouraged, therefore, to include courses in the national languages in their curricula.
South African Career Opportunities
A LAW degree involves the ability to read quickly with a good comprehension and critical insight. Law also trains you to write clearly, logically, coherently and succinctly. These skills are useful in ANY context, and increasingly our graduates spend a period abroad, using these skills in other legal systems.
An LLB degree equips you to analyse any sort of problem and to assess the available options and it teaches you about a society's rules and aspirations, in both the Public and Commercial sectors.
Becoming an Attorney is only one of many options that a law graduate has; many LLB graduates do become attorneys or advocates, but the list of options is vast - and growing!
An LLB degree can be the first step to an academic career. UCT's Master of Laws and Postgraduate Diploma programmes rank amongst the largest in the world with 43 graduate courses on offer.
LLB graduates under six months' training in pupillage with a practicing member of the Bar. After an admission examination, the work of an advocate generally involves research, drafting opinions and pleadings and presenting cases in court, most often - though not exclusively - in the High Court.
An LLB graduate must serve articles of clerkship with a practicing attorney and then write a professional examination set by the relevant provincial Law Society to become an attorney. Attorneys' work includes drafting legal documents, negotiating settlements of disputes, and preparing cases for presentation in Court.
Law graduates are to be found across the whole spectrum of business, from small firms to large corporations. There are legal advisers in tax, real estate, labour relations, contracts, public information and acquisitions; there are forensic auditors and ombudsmen, ethics and employment officers, policy and legislative analysts. Publishing firms look for legal editors, researchers and writers.
The Department of Justice employs state attorneys, prosecutors, legal drafters and of course magistrates and judges. Law graduates interested in international law can join Foreign Affairs or Trade and Industry. Government departments at both national and provincial level employ lawyers as do the National Parliament, provincial legislatures and municipal councils. In fact, there is no sector of government in which lawyers do not play a role!
NGOs and Public Interest Organisations
Researchers and lobbyists are in demand and many law graduates who are committed to the transformation of South African society work in organisations such as IDASA and NICRO, Legal Resources Centre, Lawyers for Human Rights, Trade Unions, and the Women's Legal Centre.