How to Become a Lawyer in South Africa


In South Africa, there are two categories of lawyers. One is the attorney, and the other is the advocate. Attorneys are the initial legal contact for potential clients, while advocates specialize in specific legal fields. An attorney will refer clients to an advocate if specialization is needed. To become either kind of lawyer, there are certain requirements that must be satisfied.

Things You'll Need

  • Bachelor of Laws degree
  • Obtain a Bachelor of Laws degree (LLB) after getting an initial college degree. The Qualification of Legal Practitioners Amendment Act of 1997 dictates that an LLB degree is required to practice law in South Africa. The degree should be obtained from a South African law school.

  • Serve as a candidate attorney under a practicing attorney so as to become an attorney yourself. According to the Attorneys Act, a candidate attorney will receive his Articles of Clerkship after two to three years of clerkship. The same can be accomplished in one year as long as the candidate attorney participates in a four-month training course or performs a year of community service. Once completed, you can represent a client before High Courts, the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court. Attorneys can work in partnership with each other at law firms.

  • Perform a period of pupillage, also known as an apprenticeship, with a practicing member of the bar in order to become a certified advocate. Pupillage lasts one year and includes training courses and practical assignments in courts or with clients. An advocate can perform legal research, write opinions and pleadings. Additionally, advocates may appear before High Courts, the Supreme Court of Appeal, all Magistrate's Courts, Land Claims Court, all Labour Courts and other specialist courts. Advocates specialize in the following areas of litigation: Alternative Dispute Resolution, Broadcasting Law, Civil Law, Commercial Law, Communications and Technology Law, Competition Law, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Family Law, Mining Law, Insurance Law, Labour Law, Human Rights Law, Patents and Copyright Law, Property Law, and Trial and Appeals Law. Advocates can only act as sole proprietors and are not allowed to form partnerships with other lawyers.

  • Determine whether you qualify for admission to the bar. In addition to gaining an LLB degree and performing the period of pupillage, there are additional requirements that determine whether you can formally become an advocate. The Admission of Advocates Act of 1964 requires that an advocate must be at least 21 years of age, be a South African citizen or a permanent resident, and not be registered to practice law anywhere else.

  • Complete the period of pupillage and take the Bar Examination. Once passed, you can formally become an advocate. You will have to register with one of South Africa's ten bar associations, which regulate lawyers in various parts of the country. The bar associations are: the Bisho Bar, the Cape Bar, the Eastern Cape Bar, the Free State Bar, the Johannesburg Bar, the Kwazulu-Natal Bar, the North West Bar, the Northern Cape Bar, the Pretoria Bar and the Transkei Bar.

Tips & Warnings

  • There is no language proficiency requirement. However, law students are strongly encouraged to learn one of the national languages other than English.
  • Keep in mind that South African advocates may also appear in the courts of neighboring countries such as Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
  • If you have obtained your law degree outside of South Africa, you will have to contact the South African Bar Association to verify whether your degree is equivalent to an LLB. If it is, then you will be allowed to satisfy the other requirements to become either an attorney or advocate. You must be at least 21 years old, a South African citizen or permanent resident, and not be registered to practice elsewhere.

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