How to become a Lawyer in South Africa
The admission requirements for attorneys in South Africa are currently prescribed by the Attorneys Act, 1979 and the Rules promulgated in terms of the Act.
These are an academic qualification, service under articles of clerkship or service contract, compulsory practical legal training and personal fitness. All these have to be complied with before a candidate can be admitted as an attorney. Further, all persons wishing to enter the profession must pass the attorneys’ admission examination.
The LLB degree (the course duration of which is not less than four years) or BProc degree (obtained on or before 31 December 2004), obtained at any university in the Republic, is the required academic qualification. There are exceptions, namely:
– If the person has completed a degree of the same status as the South African LLB degree at a university in a country designated by the Minister, which degree has been certified by a university in South Africa and the person has completed a supplementary examination (if required);
– If the person has previously been admitted as an advocate in South Africa.
Service under articles of clerkship or service contract
There are various methods to obtain the practical qualification to be admitted as an attorney in South Africa. An applicant must complete at least:
1. Two years under a contract of articles (service at a private law firm or state attorney) or a service contract (community service at a legal aid institution) after having satisfied the requirements for an LLB degree of a South African university; or
2. Two years under a contract of articles or service contract after having satisfied all the requirements for a degree of a university in a country designated by the Minister and certified by a South African university as being equivalent or superior to the South African LLB degree (currently the former ‘TBVC’ states, Swaziland, Namibia and Zimbabwe); or
3. One year under a contract of articles or service contract if the person has satisfied all the requirements for a South African LLB degree or a degree of a university in a country designated by the Minister and has attended the full-time School for Legal Practice for a period of approximately six months; or
4. Three years under a contract of articles or service contract if the applicant:
– has completed a degree that does not meet the requirements of a South African LLB degree; or
– if the applicant has completed a degree that does not meet the requirements of a South African LLB degree at a university in a country designated by the Minister, which degree has been certified by a university in South Africa; or
– if the applicant has obtained a matric certificate and has served continuously for a period of at least two years as a clerk to any judge of the High Court, provided that the applicant enters into articles of clerkship within a period of one year after completing such; or
5. Five years if the applicant does not have a degree, but at least has a matric certificate with full university exemption.
Appropriate legal practice
A person may be exempted from articles on condition that appropriate legal experience for at least five years, to the satisfaction of the provincial Law Society concerned, has been undergone. The Minister has determined categories of appropriate legal practice in consultation with the profession. Practice at the Bar and service as a regional prosecutor or magistrate were approved.
A person must be regarded as a fit and proper person by the Law Society and the High Court before he can be admitted as an attorney. This requirement refers mainly to the moral integrity of a person, his characteristics and particularly honesty, which is considered to be an important prerequisite for practising as an attorney.
A person must be older than 21 years and a South African citizen; or be legally entitled to permanent residence in the Republic and be ordinarily resident in the Republic; or be a citizen of a state which formerly formed part of the Republic and belongs to a category of persons and has complied with certain conditions, as determined by the Minister from time to time (currently being the former ‘TBVC’ states, Swaziland, Namibia and Zimbabwe).