What you need to know about pursuing legal jobs
Thinking of pursuing a legal career? Whether you want to make a career of commercial law or family law, there are a couple of things you should know about legal jobs in South Africa.
The law is a wide field and, because of this, there is a wide variety of career opportunities opening up a whole world of fascinating specialisations.
What is a Lawyer?
In South Africa, professionals who earn a living from the practice of law, are called lawyers. This means that professionals within the field of law (which can include advocates, attorneys and magistrates), are referred to as lawyers.
Our legal professions are then divided into two main branches namely attorneys and advocates. While advocates are more specialised in a specific field of the law, an attorney is a professional who performs legal related jobs of all kinds.
When you are in a situation where you need legal advice, you will first see an attorney. He or she will be able to give you general information on the law. Your attorney will assess the legal situation you are in and decide if your legal problems require the specialised touch of an advocate.
Should you go into the legal field?
A great lawyer is someone everyone will need to call on at some point in their life – be it for the purposes of setting up a marriage contract (in which case you will approach someone active in the field of Family Law) or creating a business partnership (in which case you will seek out the expertise of a lawyer active in Commercial Law).
When it comes to pursuing a lawyer career, some of the sought-after skills and characteristics of a good lawyer include the ability to analytically approach a situation, the creativity to solve unique situations with reasonable solutions and a heap of stunning research skills.
Excellent social skills and good writing skills are also essential when you pursue legal vacancies. You will need to be a great logical thinker, making logical assumptions and coming to reasonable conclusions.
A career field in which continuous education is important, those who wish to pursue a legal career need to have perseverance as well as good public speaking skills.
While an attorney might practice in partnerships, form their own companies or legal firms, advocates are individual practitioners and do not form a partnership, having the option of becoming members of ‘The Bar’ (also known as the Society of Advocates).
Different types of Law
Legal jobs entail employment and a passion for different kinds of law and, pursuing a lawyer career means that you will have the opportunity to specialise in a certain section of the law. Family Law, Commercial Law and Criminal Law are only a few examples of these law sections.
Family Law, falling under the section of Private Law, entails an in-depth knowledge of the law as it relates to families, marriages, children and relationships. Family Law also has its own subcategories that range to include engagement law, divorce, matrimonial property law, law as it pertains to parenting and law as it pertains to civil unions.
Aside from Family Law, Private Law also extends to include the Law of Succession and Administration of Estates, Property Law and the Law of Contract, to name but a few examples. Pursuing a career in Private Law means that you can become involved in various ‘personal’ aspects of the law including divorce, child custody, estate administration, property, wills and contracts.
Commercial Law, also known as Mercantile Law, extends to include everything that has to do with trade and commerce. Here you will have the opportunity to go into sections of the law as it pertains to labour, tax and insurance. Other aspects of Commercial Law include the Law of Business Enterprises (involving corporations, partnerships and trusts), law as is relates to International Economics, Liquidation and Insolvency Law and Consumer laws.
Criminal Law is also another fascinating aspect of legal jobs in South Africa. Falling into the category of Public Law, this involves a knowledge of criminal activities and the law. These criminal activities range to include the actual deed as well as the punishment of those illegal deeds.
Criminal Law involves specific crimes such as incitement, attempt and conspiracy. Other types of crimes dealt with within Criminal Law include crimes against the State, crimes against life and crimes committed against property, public mortality, parental authority, bodily integrity, freedom of will, religious feelings and beliefs, reputation and sexual mortality.
A wide field in itself, Public Law as a whole ranges to include various fields such as Constitutional Law, Human Rights and International Law. Within this spectrum of the law, more specialised fields also exist and include Media Law, Environmental Law and Medical Law, to name but a few.
Studying law in South Africa
In South Africa, studying towards a legal qualification can be done at a number of Universities. Mentioned below are some of the Universities that offer legal study programmes which can aid you in getting the knowledge necessary in pursuing a career in law, but please note that these are not the only Universities you can complete your studies with in South Africa.
The University of South Africa (UNISA) offer a number of programmes including Undergraduate and Honour Studies (which include Higher Certificates, Diplomas, Advanced Diplomas, Bachelor Degrees, Baccalaureus, Postgraduate Diplomas, Technologiae Degrees and Honours Degrees and). Some of the fields of studies within a Bachelor Degree includes a Bachelor of Law, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology, Police Science and Forensic Science and Technology.
The Schools of Law within UNISA extends to include Private Law, Criminal and Procedural Law, Mercantile Law, and Public, Constitutional and International Law.
University of Cape Town
The University of Cape Town (UCT) also has a faculty of Law with three departments namely Private Law, Commercial Law and Public Law. UCT offers a number of programmes that include the Basic Legal Education Programme (leading to a LLB degree) where you will find courses that include Criminal Law, Law of Property, Commercial Transaction Law, Corporation Law and Labour Law, to name but a few examples.
The Advanced Legal Education Programme which leads to a Postgraduate Diploma in Law or LLM Degree through the School of Advanced Legal Studies. Courses within the Postgraduate Studies includes Commercial Law, Constitutional and Administrative Law, Labour Law, Marine and Environmental Law and Tax Law, to name but a few courses.
University of the Witwatersrand
The University of the Witwatersrand also boasts a Law faculty, instructing prospective students to apply for the BA in Law or BCom with Law. The university’s LLB programme includes units that extend to include Family Law, Criminal Law, Law of Persons, Constitutional Law and Administrative Law, to name but a few units within the LLB Programme that will enable you to apply for legal jobs in South Africa.
University of the Free State
The University of the Free State features a large Law Faculty that has ties with a number of international law schools and faculties, ranging to include schools and faculties in the United States, Britain and Europe.
This faculty also has various departments and divisions that extend to include Public Law, Mercantile Law and Private Law.
University of Pretoria
The Law Faculty at the University of Pretoria (TUKS) offers an Undergraduate Programme (LLB), Postgraduate Programmes and Short Courses. One of the LLB Programmes offered by TUKS includes the four year LLB that will, after successful completion, enable you to pursue legal jobs such as Magistrates, Advocates, Prosecutors and attorneys.
Other Universities that offer Law Programmes and Faculties include the University of the Western Cape, Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University, University of Johannesburg and North-West University.
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Your Legal Career
If you would like to be admitted as an Attorney and apply for legal vacancies in this field, you will need to be deemed personally fit by both the High Court as well as the Law Society. This has very much to do with your moral integrity and your characteristics. In terms of academic qualifications, you will need an LLB Degree from a University in South Africa. Do note that there are exceptions to this rule.
In order to be considered for legal vacancies at this level, you will then also need to complete the Attorney’s Admission Examination. This examination is presented by the Law Society. These exams have to be successfully completed and can only be done after you have completed six months of service under a clerkship, articles or service contract. You will also have had to attend a school for Legal Practices for approximately six months.
There are also other methods of obtaining the practical qualification if you want to be admitted as an attorney in South Africa and apply for legal jobs in this field. Some of these condition includes two years under a contract of articles and a five year contract in cases where the applicant does not have a degree.
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According to PayScale, an Attorney earns an average yearly salary of R 186 473. Higher salaries are associated with those that work within corporate, commercial, litigation and conveyancing.
Legal Jobs on Job Mail
If you are on the lookout for legal vacancies in your area of expertise, Job Mail is the perfect place to start. Some of the vacancies listed on Job Mail include:
Senior Article Clerk
If you have completed your LLB Degree and have experience in Debt Collection, this position of Senior Article Clerk at a large law firm in Pretoria might be for you.
Conveyancer in Pretoria East
If you have a minimum of four years’ experience in conveyancing, you might be interested in this position at a law firm in Pretoria East. With a monthly salary of between R20 000 and R30 000 per month, other requirements include an LLB Degree.
LLB Article Clerks
A law firm located in Pretoria is looking to fill two of its LLB Articles Clerks vacancies. If you have completed your LLB Degree, this position might be for you.
Looking for legal jobs in your area? Register your CV on Job Mail and start applying for legal vacancies – from family law, commercial law, to criminal law, you are sure to find a vacancy that matches your skillset and passion.