This article provides clarity in terms of how long does it take to become a lawyer in South Africa (how many years to study Law). Do you aspire to find yourself a career in the law field in South Africa but wonder how this can be done in a foolproof manner? Well, the first thing that must know is that there are two types of lawyers in South Africa, the attorney, and the advocate. So, like every country, in South Africa, you have to follow some steps to become a professional attorney. These steps or stages are indispensable for you to become a successful attorney. Indeed, it all starts with a degree and then some hands-on learning leading to a board exam that finalizes your becoming an attorney or not. The whole process can range from being a 4-5 years program.
Watch the video below on how to become an Attorney in South Africa
So, let me take you through the stages that must be passed by you to become an attorney here. Let’s start:
What undergraduate degree do you need to be a lawyer?
The first and foremost requirement for becoming a lawyer in South Africa is gaining a law degree. This can be done by pursuing B.Com Law Degree plus an LLB Law Degree or just an LLB Law Degree. This degree takes 4-5 years to get completed. But, what do you want to do with an LLB Degree in South Africa? Indeed, if you wish to be a lawyer, you need to finish the degree and start applying from day 1 to get noticed.
Watch a video on what Subjects are required to study Law
- HANDS-ON, REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE
What worth will your degree be if you do not apply that knowledge practically? So, in the second year of your degree, you would be required to hop into the real world and start applying to different firms to earn some work experience. This usually happens in July or December holidays when the notable firms give you an opportunity to work for two to three weeks.
This is a wonderful and fulfilling experience as you get to understand how it actually works out there, you also get to know which specific type of law you would like to do and it also adds up to your CV without which you cannot thrive. So, this step is very crucial as you will make new contacts and explore the law field as it is.
Serving Law Articles for Clerkship in South Africa
After completing the LLB degree, an aspiring attorney is required to complete two years of articles of clerkship. This means that you will be required to work as a candidate attorney at a law firm under the supervision of your attorney or the principal. This period can also be shortened to one year if you attend law school as a full-time candidate!
According to the Law Society of South Africa, a candidate attorney may enter into articles for the following periods:
- 5 years – this is if they are still studying towards a Bachelor of Laws degree, the absolute entry requirement is a Matric Certificate with an exemption endorsement or bachelor’s pass and or a certificate of complete exemption. It is therefore mandatory for the document to reflect an endorsement certifying that “The candidate has complied with/met the minimum requirements for admission to bachelor’s degree study at a University in the Republic of South Africa”,
- 3 years – this is if they already have a primary degree viz B.Com, BA, B.Juris,
- B.Social Sciences degree etc.
- 2 years – this is if they are in possession of either LLB degree or B.Proc degree (obtained on or before 31 December 2004).
- 1 year – this is if they have either LLB of B.Proc degree and in addition thereto have completed the full-time six months Practical Legal Training course offered by the Law Society of South Africa alternatively the one year long distance training course offered by UNISA.
How to write a cv for law internship
Your CV has to be appealing and must speak for why you must be the first choice for someone. It must be a good balance of preciseness and confidence. Add in your duration for vacation work and articles of clerkship. Try avoiding exaggerated words or overly smart tone while penning it. It should be specific, professional, formal, and well-worded. Remember, your CV reaches before even you do so take it as a very serious and transformational step. An impressive CV will make sure the employer looks into it and may approach you for an interview.
Practical Legal Trainig (PLT) in South Africa
PLT or Practical Legal Training is another crucial step that must be fulfilled by any aspiring attorney in South Africa. It is a mandatory course that you must complete before you can be admitted as an attorney anywhere. Why is it so important? Well, this course equips you with the vital legal skills that you would need to practice and also prepares you for the board exams that decide the final verdict for you. So, completing this essential course is a must if you wish to be a lawyer in South Africa.
Attorney Admission Exam
After the successful completion of the PLT course as required by the Legal Practice Council, you are required to appear for the attorney’s admission exam or the board exam. Here, you will be required to take 4 exams either in February or August or in both. Why do I say so? It is because you have the freedom to choose which exam you want to take and when. This means that you can either take two exams in August and two in February or take them all in any of the two months. So, here you do have the liberty to choose the time of your exam.
Getting Admitted as an Attorney
So, what next should you do after you have passed your board exam too? Well, waste no time and start applying as an attorney in the law firms. Now, you would be required to pen an application to apply to different courts. Your attorney or the principal must move forward with the convincing application you wrote so that this process may get completed timely. Your law firm would be taking care of all the modalities but you must remain cognizant and in touch so that in case of any amendment you show up and act accordingly.
Preparing for a Law firm interview
The next meaningful and interesting stage is when you are called for the interview. A law firm would preferable like to know why they must hire. Indeed, you must focus on how you dress that day, (an informal dressing leaves a bad impression) what your body language is, how smartly you talk and how eager you are to serve as an attorney. Do not fret about this process as undue anxiety may ruin the easy-going process.
Tips on preparing for a law firm interview in South Africa
- Do research beforehand on the firm you’re interviewing with
- If you’re interviewing for an associate position (or even an internship), make an effort to really understand what the firm’s expectations are of you
- Practice your interview answers before hand.
- Also, prepare your own questions that you would like to ask the law firm
- MISCELLANEOUS REQUIREMENTS
Now, you must keep in mind that becoming a lawyer/ attorney in South Africa will not happen overnight. You will have to go through the different stages and expect the changes in requirements at any point in time. Some miscellaneous requirements like proper moral conduct, language proficiency, getting an equivalence certificate (in case you have hailed from some other country) and many more may be expected by you. So, keep in touch and stay energized to become a promising attorney in South Africa.