What is the difference between advocate and attorney jobs?
Do you have an interest in the field of law? Today the Job Mail team tackles legal jobs, delving a little deeper into what attorneys and advocates are, what their jobs involve and the type of qualifications you will need in order to pursue these legal jobs in South Africa.
Before we discuss what the difference between advocate and attorney jobs are, it is important to first answer what an attorney and what an advocate is, so let’s get started.
What is an Attorney?
Marked as a scare skills by the Department of Higher Education and Training, an attorney is a qualified professional that is able to give you sound legal advice, prepare and draft legal documentation, and is able to conduct negotiations when it comes to legal matters on behalf of their clients.
Working as an attorney you will take on the job of drafting legal documents (from real estate to statements associated with legal opinion), giving legal advice to private persons and companies, and even gathering evidence to start legal action.
Attorney jobs will also involve a range of other aspects including responsibilities such as negotiating settlements where legal disputes are involved and pleading a client’s case in a court of law, administrative boards and before tribunals.
You will also be responsible for researching statutes and legal principles, finding previous court decisions that relates to the case at hand and instructing advocates to plead cases in the higher South African courts.
Attorneys and the profession as whole is represented by the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA). In turn, the Cape Law Society, the Law Society of the Free State, the Kwa-Zulu Natal Law Society and the Law Society of the Northern Province are constituents of the LSSA and take on the role of being the disciplinary and regulatory bodies for attorneys.
How to become an attorney in South Africa
In South Africa, becoming an attorney will require years of dedicated study along with practical experience. There are a number of education pathways you can choose, the predominant factor being obtaining a four or five year Bachelor of Law (LLB) degree.
You will also need to complete a two year Candidate Attorney Learnership in order to gain the practical experience needed to fully complete your training. Do note that during this learnership you have to be registered with your provincial law society as a Candidate Attorney and fulfil the requirements set out.
After completing this learnership you will be required to pass the Attorney Admission Examination as well. Along with completing short courses and training programmes offered by the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) during your learnership, passing your exam allows you to apply to the court in order to be admitted to practice as an attorney in South Africa.
Legal jobs are regulated in South Africa and, if you want to practice as an attorney, you are required to register with your provincial law society.
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What is an Advocate?
Also marked as a scare skill by the Department of Higher Education and Training, an advocate takes on the role of pleading a client’s case in civil, industrial, criminal and other types of tribunal courts.
As an advocate, you will be responsible for evaluating findings, researching legal principles and statutes, developing strategies and arguments in order to formulate a sound defence for your client and working with witnesses, questioning and cross questioning them in order to test the truth of the evidence they provide in a court of law.
Giving legal advice and presenting arguments on behalf of a client, advocates in South Africa work on both civil and criminal cases and can work for either the state, plaintiffs or defendants.
Advocates are organised into what we commonly know as a ‘Bars’ – societies that can be found in the major centres of our country. There are regional Bars (like seen with legal law societies for attorneys) which are in turn constituents of the General Council of the Bar of South Africa (GCB).
The GCB represents the advocate profession and is also tasked with maintaining the conduct, ethics and professional standards of advocates. Though it is not a requirement that you adhere to the Membership of the Bar, it is however recommended.
How to become an advocate in South Africa
Wondering how to become an advocate in South Africa? As seen with attorneys, you will need to complete a four or five year Bachelor of Law (LLB) degree. After successfully completing your degree, you will have to enter a one year internship programme called a Pupillage. This is done through an application to the Bar.
During this year, you will be able to write the National Bar Examination Board’s examination and, once successfully completed, you will be allowed to apply to the Bar. This will allow you to be included on the ‘roll’ of advocates.
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Difference between advocate and attorney
So, what is the difference between advocate and attorney jobs in South Africa?
Though both these legal professions provide legal services, there is a difference between attorney jobs and advocates.
An attorney can be described as a more general law practitioner. These legal professionals are the first form of contact a client has when seeking and receiving legal advice. Attorneys should be readily accessible to the public, allowing you and me to approach them when we are in need of legal advice and services.
Attorneys are also required to be knowledgeable in a wide range of legal matters, having a broad understanding of the law as well as an understanding of different fields of law.
It is the attorney that decides whether it is necessary to involve an advocate as the advocate does not have direct contact with the public.
An advocate on the other hand may be described as a more specialised legal professional, working only with the briefs provided to him or her by an attorney. Advocates are able to provide specialised advice and representation concerning his or her field of law – be it in the form of advice or presenting cases in a court of law.
Also note that attorneys form firms and companies, practicing in partnership, while an advocate is an individual legal practitioner and never forms these partnerships.
So what is a lawyer then? An attorney can also be known as a lawyer, but it is important to note that anyone who makes a living by practicing law, is considered a lawyer. This means that everyone from an attorney and advocate, to a magistrate, judge and even university lecturer (in the field of law) can be called a lawyer.
It is no secret that legal jobs in South Africa are demanding, but legal careers are also rewarding. Requiring high standards of ethics, confidence and superior communication skills (both written and verbal), to name but a few traits and characteristics, obtaining your qualification and working in the field is not just challenging, but allows you to work with people, helping them when expertise and knowledge is truly needed.