How To Become An Attorney In South Africa

Do you have a passion for justice, a knack for critical thinking, and a desire to make a positive impact on society? If so, read on to learn how to become an attorney in South Africa. Not everyone is cut out for a career in law but if you think your choice to become a lawyer is the right one, then the next step is to understand the process so you can plan your career path.

The law career pathway in South Africa usually starts with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree, although some lead into an LLB by first completing BA Law and BCom Law degrees. After completing an LLB degree, you'll need to undergo practical vocational training called articles of clerkship to gain hands-on experience in different areas of law. Once done, you have to pass the board examinations set by the Legal Practice Council of South Africa, after which you can be admitted as an attorney of the High Court of South Africa. This involves taking an oath of admission and officially enrolling as an attorney, giving you the right to practice law in the country.

Educational Foundation for Aspiring Attorneys

So you’re now probably asking yourself: how do I become a lawyer?

Various public universities and private academic institutions around South Africa offer prospective students the option to study law. The Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree is a professional undergraduate degree that prepares graduates to work and practice in the field of law in South Africa. The degree comprises the necessary substantive legal modules required by graduates to, upon compliance with additional legislative requirements, be admitted as attorneys and advocates.

If you have not initially enrolled in an LLB programme, you can consider alternative pathways such as enrolling for either a BCom Law degree or a BA Law degree. Neither of these three-year degrees on their own qualifies you to practice as an attorney, unlike the four-year LLB degree. Both, however, allow entry into the LLB degree.

  • A BCom law degree gives a general grounding in the key disciplines of law, business management, economics, and finance. These help enable a career in business, which requires a good grounding in law, or enable you to pursue a career in law, with the benefit of a sound foundation in commerce.
  • A BA Law degree offers training in the law, but also provides the opportunity for schooling in social sciences and the humanities, like politics, philosophy and languages. It can lead to specialised law-related careers including media, research, criminology, academia, mediation and communications sciences.

Practical Legal Training and Vocational Preparation

You’ve learned the theory but practical legal training (PLT), including options like serving articles or attending PLT courses, will essentially teach you how to become an attorney – and a good one. PLT provides aspiring lawyers with real-world, hands-on experience in legal practice. Whether through serving articles of clerkship or attending a PLT course, you will have the opportunity to work on actual cases, interact with clients, and navigate legal procedures under the guidance of experienced practitioners. This practical experience is invaluable in bridging the gap between theory learned in the classroom and the realities of legal practice.

Board Examinations

Passing the board examinations, administered by the Legal Practice Council, is a key milestone on the law career pathway in South Africa. It shows that candidates are prepared to uphold justice and integrity in the legal field.

These examinations cover:

  • Legal practice, which evaluates candidates' comprehension of legal principles, procedures, and practices that are relevant to practicing law in South Africa
  • Ethics and professional responsibility, which is used to assess candidates on an understanding of legal ethics, professional behaviour and the regulations that govern the practice of law
  • Various areas of law

If you want to ace the board exams, make sure you grasp the fundamental legal principles, tackle past exam questions within a time limit, get advice from seasoned mentors, use different study materials, handle your time wisely during the exam, stay informed about recent legal updates, take care of yourself, stay positive, and have faith in your preparation and skills to triumph.

Community Service Requirement

Future lawyers in South Africa must finish a community service period as part of their training. This requirement helps improve access to justice by offering legal help to underserved areas and making legal services more accessible to those who require it. Community service options may involve working in legal aid clinics, giving pro bono legal aid, organising legal education workshops, or working in government agencies. Through community service, you will gain hands-on experience, enhance your knowledge of social justice matters, contribute to reducing inequality and help promote access to justice for everyone in society.

Admission and Enrolment as an Attorney

The final step to becoming a lawyer is to apply to the High Court for enrolment as an attorney. This application includes providing documentation that proves completion of articles of clerkship, passing the admission examination, and meeting character and fitness standards. Once the High Court approves the application, candidates take an oath of admission and officially become enrolled attorneys, granting them the privilege to practice law in South Africa. The oath highlights their dedication to serving with integrity, honesty, and professionalism, protecting clients' interests and ensuring the fair administration of justice.

Continuing Your Professional Development

Now that you’ve answered the question: how can I become a lawyer, you must invest in ongoing education and professional development in the legal profession. These will provide chances to specialise further in specific areas of law to better meet clients’ needs. Legal organisations are also instrumental in this process, providing seminars, workshops, and networking events that promote collaboration, mentorship, and sharing of knowledge within the legal community.

Becoming an attorney in South Africa involves dedication, perseverance, and a commitment to justice and the rule of law. It starts with earning an LLB degree, completing articles of clerkship, and passing the board examinations. Once admitted to the legal profession, attorneys vow to serve with integrity and uphold the Constitution and individual rights. Although the journey is challenging, the impact on society and communities is rewarding. Pursue your passion for law with diligence and integrity as your efforts will very likely make a difference for the better.

About The IIE’s Varsity College

The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE) of which Varsity College is a brand, is South Africa’s largest registered and accredited private provider of higher education. At Varsity College we understand that no two students are the same or learn the same. That’s why we make sure a student’s education is shaped around them; how they like to learn, what they are passionate about, what makes them tick, and what makes them thrive. Our Education by Design approach allows students to grow into their best, and creates a space where they can live, learn and play – their way.