Becoming a Lawyer in South Africa


Legal representation is a fundamental right for all South African citizens. It is essential that this service reaches a broad cross-section of our society and is affordable.

Lawyers in South Africa are known as attorneys and advocates. To be an attorney, you need at least an LLB law degree which takes four years.


A lawyer is a licensed legal professional who can deal with any aspect of the law. This includes advising clients, representing them in court, and preparing all necessary legal documentation. Attorneys are skilled in various fields of law, including commercial and real estate law, labor law, specialized criminal law, conveyancing, and notaries. They can also offer legal advice on employment matters, zoning laws, property development, inheritance, and estate planning.

To become an attorney, you need to have an LLB degree, practical experience, complete relevant professional exams, and be admitted by the High Court of South Africa. While you can work as a lawyer without becoming an advocate first, you will not have access to some of the privileges, support, and fraternity that advocates enjoy.

An advocate is a lawyer who specializes in the art of presenting and arguing cases in courts. Until 1994, only advocates were permitted to submit claims in the Supreme Courts of the different provinces and the Appeal Court in Bloemfontein. Now, attorneys who have obtained a so-called right of appearance can also appear in these courts, Magistrates’ Courts, and certain statutory bodies.

To become an advocate, you need to have an LLB degree, two years of articles, and be admitted by the High Court of South Africa. The difference between an attorney and an advocate is that attorneys are licensed to advise their clients but are not permitted to argue their cases in court. The advocacy process takes between seven and eight years to complete.

As a student, you should ensure that your law school has a good reputation and offers many subjects. The best way to get a feel for the legal industry is to do a work experience placement during your holidays. This is an excellent opportunity to see how a law firm operates daily and meet potential employers. Robert Walters can help you find work experience placements in reputable law firms.

Legal representation in the courts is a fundamental constitutional right for all citizens. This service must be available to a cross-section of society, regardless of their financial situation. This is especially so in a democracy where everybody is equal before the law. The public defender is an integral part of this.


Becoming a lawyer in South Africa requires an LLB degree, practical experience, and passing a bar exam. The LLB can take no less than four years to complete and is usually offered by universities in South Africa, but institutions from approved countries like Swaziland, Namibia, Lesotho, and the former Bophuthatswana, Venda, Transkei, and Ciskei states may also offer an LLB. Several subjects must be studied, including foundations of South African law, South African private law, constitutional law, criminal law, intellectual property, and evidence. Drafting legal documents is an essential aspect of the career and a crucial training focus.

After graduating, you will have to do one year of pupilage before you are allowed to practice as an advocate. You will not receive a salary during this period, and you must market yourself to find work. If you are successful, you can charge up to R45 000 daily. However, becoming a successful advocate takes many years and requires a strong work ethic.

An advocate is a legal professional presenting and arguing cases in court. They must also be competent in preparing legal documents and giving legal opinions. The role of an advocate is similar to that of a solicitor in other Commonwealth countries. However, unlike attorneys, advocates do not form partnerships and are called members of ‘the Bar.’

S splitting the legal profession into attorneys and advocates in South Africa follows English practice. Attorneys are members of the Law Society of South Africa and form professional companies and firms. At the same time, advocates belong to a separate body called ‘the Bar’ and work as individual practitioners.

In addition to the academic requirements and practical experience, you must have a clean criminal record and pass a bar examination before you are admitted to practice as an advocate. Once qualified, you can begin working as an advocate and use your skills to consult with clients, give advice on legal matters and represent them in court.

Public Defender

In South Africa, the law is one of the highest-paying professions. Law graduates can earn millions each year, depending on their field of specialization and seniority. The most lucrative areas include family, intellectual property, criminal and corporate law. However, a law career comes with many hoops to jump through. First, a student must earn an LLB degree from an accredited law school. This takes about four years. Then, the student must work in a legal setting for several years to gain practical experience before taking an admissions exam.

Lawyers can be divided into two types: attorneys and advocates. Attorneys work in law firms and write contracts, while advocates wear robes and argue court cases. Both types of lawyers must pass the Legal Practice Council examinations. The Legal Practice Council is the body that regulates the profession on a national level. Advocates also need to complete a one-year apprenticeship called pupillage before they are admitted to the bar.

The Constitution and the Rules of the Legal Practice Council govern South African law. The Constitution establishes the principles governing the law and its application. Law students must take classes on the foundations of South African law, constitutional law, commercial law, and criminal law. In addition, they must complete courses on subjects such as the law of property, evidence, and African customary law.

The process of becoming a lawyer in South Africa is lengthy and rigorous. First, a person must earn an LLB degree from a recognized university in South Africa. Then, they must undergo two years of practical training known as articles of clerkship. After completing their papers, a person must pass an Attorneys’ admission exam to become a lawyer.

Once a person has passed the admissions exam, they can start their practice as an attorney in South Africa. They can work for law firms or in-house legal departments at companies like Sasol, MTN, and Standard Bank. Alternatively, they can work as a private attorney. Private attorneys can charge high fees for their services, but they may be able to offer clients more personalized service.


In South Africa, many different courts deal with a variety of matters. These include district courts, high courts, and magistrates’ courts, which all have several specialized divisions to deal with specific issues. The highest court is the Constitutional Court (Concourt), which deals with all constitutional matters. The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) is the second highest court and hears appeals from the High Courts. It is seated in Bloemfontein. There are also specialist courts, such as the Land Claims Court, Electoral Court, and Tax Courts, which deal with matters in particular areas of law.

Lawyers work in a variety of settings and they can specialize in conveyancing, patent law, or litigation, but they all have to complete an LLB degree before they can practice. Those who want to be advocates must serve a one-year pupillage under an advocate and pass the National Bar Examination before qualifying as an advocate.

Attorneys are professionals responsible for managing legal cases and dealing directly with clients. They are often employed by large corporate firms or as sole practitioners. In 2018 there were 24290 practicing attorneys in South Africa. Advocates, who are members of the sidebar’, are specialists in presenting and arguing legal cases in court. They can appear in all levels of court but do not usually work in the same way as attorneys and, for example, do not manage a case from start to finish.

The attorney briefs the advocate, who argues the matter in court. Some advocates, such as Thuli Madonsela, who led the Marikana Commission of Inquiry and was a public protector, are exceptionally well known and have built huge reputations. But it is tough to become an advocate as it takes years of hard work and marketing.

Everyone has the right to have disputes decided by a fair public hearing before a court of law or an independent and impartial tribunal or forum. This is enshrined in the Constitution.