If you have set your sights on a career as an attorney, planning your career path beforehand is a prerequisite for your eventual success. Our legal recruitment specialists at Robert Walters discuss the necessary steps to help you study for your law degree and be admitted as an attorney in South Africa.
You will need to enrol for and complete a four-year LLB degree, which is the minimum requirement. You also have the option of completing a BCom degree before the LLB degree but this is not compulsory.
The Qualification of Legal Practitioners Amendment Act of 1997 stipulates that an LLB degree is required to practise law in South Africa. The degree must be obtained from an accredited South African law school at one of the various universities or colleges in South Africa.
The LLB degree usually takes four years to complete and the BCom plus LLB degrees five years. 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.
In your pre-final year of study, or even as early as the end of your second year of study, you will need to apply direct to law firms for work experience during the July or December holidays. Most of the larger law firms in South Africa offer such work experience for a two- to three-week period.
This work experience will be a valuable addition to your CV and is a great opportunity to learn how law firms operate on a daily basis; to find out more about the area of law you would like to work in; and to add to your contact list.
You can speak to a Robert Walters legal recruitment specialist for more information on law firms that offer work experience vocational programmes.
Articles of clerkship
After successful completion of your law degree, you will need to work at a law firm as a candidate attorney under the guidance of a practising attorney before you will be allowed to practise as an attorney yourself. 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.
Update your CV
You will need an updated CV to apply for vacation work experience and an appointment as an articled clerk. Robert Walters legal recruitment specialists can offer advice on how to make your CV stand out, as a strong CV is vital to success. Here are some quick tips:
- Your CV is a marketing tool to help you get your foot in the door. You therefore have to sell yourself, as it were. Give specific information and examples of your achievements in your CV.
- Highlight your strong points. Finding work in the legal field is very competitive even at this stage and you will be competing against many other candidates with similar CVs. Concentrate on achievements that make you stand out.
- Be succinct and to the point. Your CV will not be given much time to impress – employers tend to scan rather than read them. The best CVs typically contain only details of education and work experience.
- Avoid typing errors and spelling and grammar mistakes at all costs. If English is not your first language, ask the Robert Walters legal recruitment specialists to refer you to a language practitioner who can edit your CV for you.
Improve your interview skills
Interviews need not be as nerve-wracking as they are made out to be, as interview skills can be taught. A few simple guidelines can take you a long way. For tips on how to prepare for a job interview, download the Robert Walters Interview Guide.
Register your contract
Make sure your contract is registered with the law society of the province in which you are working, within two months of starting your period as an articled clerk. Also make sure that the contract is backdated to the commencement date of this period so that you do not lose the two months’ experience you have already completed.
If you are not registered as a candidate attorney, this time you have spent working will not be recognised by the court once you apply to be admitted as an attorney.
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.
After your PLT course, you will write your board examinations. These can be written every February and July/August. In total, you have to pass four board examinations, namely Estates, Bookkeeping, Attorneys’ Practice and Court Procedures. You can choose when you will write which examination as long as you pass all four.
Being admitted as an attorney
Once you have completed your PLT and passed your board examinations, you are entitled to apply to the court to be admitted as an attorney. You will need to prepare your application for admission and your principal will be required to sign your confirmatory affidavit.
Source: Robert Walters