I wanted to be a lawyer

Many of you have asked yourself what you wanted to be when you grew up and realized you are not in that line of work at all. This article is a follow up to our first article entitled “Have you reached your goals set when you were young?” (which is part of our #YouWantMyJob and #WhenIGrowUp series).

Chantell Nell-Marais (Sales and Training Manager for Job Mail) and L’lani Swanepoel (now Proof Reading Manager at Junk Mail) both wanted to become Lawyers:

lawyerL’lani:  “What appealed to me at that stage of my life was power and independence. Being in control of a courtroom.”

Chantell: “Like most girls I wanted to be skinny, smart and a very successful lawyer when I was  a child. After finishing school I got the opportunity to further my studies … In my second year I discovered that LAW in SA is not exactly LA Law. Then one day I met the little dancing baby from the Ally McBeal show and decided that I had had enough.”

Here are some challenges faced by legal professionals:

  • As a lawyer, you get involved with people, businesses or government functions. It can be very intimidating.
  • Many lawyers work long hours and often face difficult problems from legal opponents or because of the animosity from those on the other side of their cases.
  • The challenges lawyers face also provide rewards. As a lawyer, you build up self-confidence while getting the mental stimulation from solving complex problems.
  • As a defense attorney, you might represent clients accused of crimes. Often, those clients are guilty, but the challenge of getting an innocent person freed brings enormous rewards.

How to become a lawyer:

We had a chat with Theressa Hitge who is an admitted attorney and member of the Law Society of South Africa. She offered some great advice to those that are interested in entering the law profession.

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South African law requires that a lawyer obtains a law degree, pass an admissions exam and undergo a background check. Lawyers must also complete a half-year stint in a real life law practice setting before getting their own licenses to practice.

You can start fresh into a four-year bachelor’s program to earn the required LLB degree in Law. You can also obtain a three-year bachelor’s law degree and then finish by completing another two years of additional studies. This route takes longer, but it does prepare students better for practicing law. Exceptions to the LLB can be made for equivalent foreign degrees.

Attorneys in South Africa get a taste of real world law practice before getting the green light to practice on their own. South African law makes a lawyer complete one of the following: 6 months in pupilage, or an apprenticeship with a practicing lawyer; six months working at a community service law clinic or completion of a full-time program designed for practicing law. This practical experience must be completed before taking the admissions exam.

You may have heard horror stories about the bar exam. The lawyer’s admissions exam in South Africa is similar to a state bar exam in the United States. It is a mandatory test administered by the South African Law Society. Some of the legal topics it covers include criminal law, accident law, wills and estate law, contract law and legal bookkeeping. The admissions exam is offered twice yearly and must be passed to become a lawyer.

Where can you study law? Courses are offered at L.E.A.D, Wits, Unisa, Law School, University of KZN and a few other institutions.

We hope you found this insightful and will be willing to share your story with us using the #WhenIGrowUp hashtag on your social media profiles. What did you dream of becoming? Did you / will you follow through? Leave a comment and let us know. Feedback is appreciated and welcome. Also feel free to check out the latest jobs in the legal field on Job Mail.

Watch this space for updates in our #YouWantMyJob and #WhenIGrowUp series of articles.

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1 Response

  1. Mark Hardnick says:

    Good afternoon,during my different jobs i had i realize that i want to be a lob our lawyer or consultant.You will not believe me but i already win cases without any experience or documentation,i am busy with one case now that is moving in my way against a big company for unfair dismissal.The only problem i have i am working and don’t know how to get the moneys or to learn my way threw this and i can really help and get a lot of customers because where i come from our people are very much uneducated,please advice.Warm Regards.Mark Hardnick- 0795479291/0214818713/0825539979

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