How to Become an Attorney in South Africa

african american attorney
25 Aug 2023

Becoming an attorney in South Africa involves several steps. You must complete your Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree at a recognised university,  pass 4 board examinations, work as a candidate attorney under a qualified lawyers for 2 years, and attend compulsory Practical Vocational Training . Otherwise, you cannot practice as an attorney.

A key statute that governs professional conduct relevant to attorneys is the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014. A person may only practise as a legal practitioner if he or she is admitted and enrolled to practise as such in terms of this Act.

Admission & Enrollment as a Legal Practitioner

After obtaining your LLB degree in South Africa, which generally takes 4 years, you will need to start working at a law firm as a candidate attorney. You will be assigned a principal who is a senior attorney at the law firm and who will oversee your work and your growth. This first-hand exposure gives valuable insight into law’s real-world application – your area of focus will depend on the law firm and the lawyers that your work with.

During your 2 year articles of clerkship period, you can attend Practical Vocational Training where you will learn some essential skills of being an attorney. This course will also help you to prepare for your admission exams, although it is not compulsory to do the course before attempting to write the exams.

Candidate attorneys must write and pass 4 board exams, including Estates, Bookkeeping, Ethics and Court Procedures.

Once the above steps are completed, a candidate attorney can apply to be admitted and enrolled as a legal practitioner. This is done by applying to court – you will have to prepare your application to be admitted and your principal will be required to sign your confirmatory affidavit.

To Summarise

  • 4 year LLB degree (you can also do a BCom Law and then an LLB)
  • 2 year articles of clerkship at a law firm
  • Practical Vocational Training
  • 4 Board exams
  • Application to court to be admitted and enrolled as a legal practitioner.
(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)

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