Pathway to a Career in Law

September 1st, 2014 by Pearson

Becoming a legal practitioner in South Africa, and elsewhere, requires a great deal of discipline and dedication. The rewards, if you manage to forge a career in this field, are big and large salaries are not uncommon for legal practitioners.

The pathway to a career in law as an attorney has some non-negotiable requirements that are unavoidable if you want to become a practicing attorney or advocate in South Africa. These include:

Get a law degree

The first step is to find a university or college with a good law school and to apply for entry. You will have to complete a LLB degree which takes 4 years to complete. Only the best students get accepted at the best law firms and it is important to remember this throughout your studies. Marks count for more than you realise.

Complete vacation work

During your holidays, it is highly advisable to apply to large law firms for acceptance into their vacation work programme. They usually last a couple of weeks and offer great work experience, look good on your CV and help you to build important connections. The majority of large firms will choose candidates to be accepted into their articles of clerkship positions from the group of people who work at the firm during the vacation work programme.

Doing your Articles

After obtaining your law degree you are required to complete two years of articles. During this period you will work under the guidance of an attorney, as a candidate attorney. This is an extremely important requirement of furthering your career as a legal practitioner. Only those who have completed articles of clerkship are eligible to be admitted as an attorney. A requirement also exists whereby candidates must register their starting with articles with the relevant law society.

Complete Practical Legal Training (PLT)

This is another prerequisite part of the training that has to be completed before you are able to continue your career in law. Many law firms have in-house PLT courses but it is best to speak to your local law society to find out more about this. Many university’s also have PLT classes. PLT can be done on a full-time or a part-time basis.

Complete the Board Exams

Passing the Board Exams is one of the most important requirements of entering the legal practice as without it, it would be impossible to practice law. There are four different board exams, all of which need to be passed. The exams are written in February and August each year and there is an option to write all four exams at once, or to split the exams. Board exams can be written from August in a candidate attorney’s first year of articles.

Admission as an attorney
Once all your board exams have been passed and your articles of clerkship have been completed, applicants may then apply to the High Court of South Africa to be admitted as an attorney. To do this, you need to launch an application out of the High Court which includes a signed affidavit together with various annexures after which, if successful, you will officially be an admitted attorney.