The lowdown on legal jobs in South Africa
So you are interested in legal jobs but aren’t quite sure what positions are available or what kind of training you need? You might think that candidate attorney jobs are out of your reach, but the legal field in South Africa might surprise you. There are many openings for for these types of jobs that don’t require you to have years of training and tuition behind you. We will go through all of the positions in the legal field, starting from the bottom all the way to your top tier attorney jobs. We will also expand a little more on what these jobs entail.
The first legal job on the list is the legal secretary. These employees perform secretarial duties in magistrates’ offices or legal firms, depending on who the employer is. They are required to have a very good understanding of legal terminology and procedures as they will be compiling legal documents and will have to deal with clients who have instituted subpoenas, summonses, complaints, responses or any other motions. They might be required to assist with legal research, including citations in legal write-ups and verifying quotes.
Apart from this, you will be performing normal secretarial duties such as typing and answering calls. Computer skills are needed here as well as good communication skills.
To become a legal secretary, one needs to have a Legal Secretary diploma. This can be obtained from any FET college or private institution such as Damelin and the like.
Check out Legal secretary vacancies on Job Mail
A paralegal, or a legal assistant, is there to provide legal support and assistance to attorneys and other legal professionals in their daily work. A paralegal can be anyone from a legal secretary (as explained above) who has legal typing skills to a trained legal worker with some office management ability.
You will do anything from taking testimonies to interviewing witnesses. Possibly helping clients to interpret and explain legal documents and preparing clients for meeting with the attorney. You will also be performing the bulk of the daily legal research that the company needs to conduct.
To fill these types of legal jobs you will need to undergo a 12 month paralegal course. This can be done at most private and public education institutions in South Africa. These include Damelin and UNISA.
A candidate attorney, or a Law clerk, is a legal professional that works for a lawyer or judge. These are normally people that have just graduated from law school. You will mostly be performing an administrative function such as relieving lawyers of routine duties and helping them with casework when needed. You will also assist with research into clients and legal precedence.
In order to fill these types of positions, you will first need to qualify as a legal practitioner. This is done by completing a four year LLB Law Degree. If you are unsure of this course, you can do a BComm Law Degree before the LLB Law Degree but this is not compulsory.
The Qualification of Legal Practitioners Amendment Act of 1997 says that an LLB Law Degree is required to practice law in South Africa. This degree must be done through an accredited South African law school in South Africa at any university or legal/business college in South Africa.
The reason for performing candidate attorney jobs is to meet the requirements for writing the board exams, which are the tests you write to become a fully qualified attorney. According to the Attorneys Act in South Africa, you have to work a minimum of two years as a law clerk, unless you attend a full time school for legal practice, in that case you only have to perform one year as a law clerk. This needs to be done under a contract of articles, which is service with a state attorney or at a private law firm. Alternatively, you can go into a service contract which entails community service at a legal aid institution.
Candidate Attorney vacancies on Job Mail
Some of you might think that a lawyer and an attorney are the same thing. This isn’t true. A lawyer is anyone who has been trained in Law. So a paralegal is also considered to be a lawyer. An attorney is someone who has attended law school and is practicing the study of law as a career. This is a candidate attorney who has passed a bar examination and has been admitted to practice law in a given jurisdiction. They give legal representation to an individual and deals with legal matters on behalf of their client.
Once you have finished your LLB and you have your work experience, you can then start becoming an Admitted Attorney. First up, you will need to register your contracts, or the time you spend working in candidate attorney vacancies. Do this within 2 months of starting your articles and make sure that the contract is backdated to your starting date or you will lose out on two months of working experience.
Once you have legal experience under your belt you have to pass the Practical Legal Training or PLT. This is a compulsory bridging course that will prepare you for your board exams. Once this is completed you can write your board exams. In South Africa, the exams are as follows, Estates, Bookkeeping, Ethics and Court Procedures. These exams can be written in February or July/August and you can choose the order of the tests yourself.
After these tests have been completed you can then apply to the court to get admitted as an attorney by way of application. You will have to prepare this admission and it will have to be accompanied by a confirmatory affidavit that has been signed by principal, which is a representative of the legal firm that you did your candidate attorney work with.
From here you can specialize in a certain area of law like contractual law or corporate law. There are many areas of law and it would depend on your personal preference at to which field you specialize in.
Here are some attorney jobs on Job Mail
In South Africa there is a difference between an advocate and an attorney. An attorney may not be an advocate and vice versa.
An attorney, as explained above, is the person you deal with directly and an advocate is the person who will deal with legal matters in court. They are specialists in presenting and arguing cases in court and have specialized knowledge of that matter. You will first approach an attorney who will then speak to and advocate who will then represent your case in court. This distinction is there to protect the citizen from incorrect prosecution or unjust treatment. This person is meant to be impartial to the client and would not be successful if the client and advocate knew each other personally.
Becoming an advocate is the same as becoming an attorney, but when you apply to the court after passing your board exams, you apply to be an advocate. There are various checks and balances put in place to ensure that these individuals are just and fair like having to pass another test called the National Bar Examination of the General Council of the Bar. This is a test of your practical ability. Upon completion you will be obliged to occupy chambers in a court and you are then bound by rules of ethics.
Judges and Magistrates
A judge or magistrate is the top of the ladder for legal jobs as far as authority is concerned. A judge or magistrate presides over a courtroom in South Africa and they have the final say on the verdict of the trial and the nature of the punishment that follows. They do have guidelines to stick to in terms of what punishments can be given out in regards to certain crimes committed, but it’s ultimately up to their discretion.
A magistrate and a judge perform the same function, but a magistrate presides over criminal and civil cases in court. Magistrates, in South Africa, are appointed by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development on the suggestions of the Magistrates’ Commission. Judges preside over all criminal, civil and constitutional issues in the High Courts, Supreme Court of Appeal and the even the Constitutional Court. Judges can only be appointed by the President on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission.
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We hope that this article will help you figure out if legal jobs are right for you. Candidate attorney jobs can be incredibly rewarding. Looking for candidate attorney vacancies in your area? Register your CV on Job Mail, browse through the jobs available and start applying for amazing career opportunities today!