How to become an legal practitioner

The admission requirements for legal practitioners in South Africa are prescribed by the Attorneys Act 53 of 1979 and the rules promulgated in terms of the Act.

Personal fitness
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. (Read More)

Academic qualifications
The only academic qualification that is presently recognised for the purpose of
admission as an attorney is an 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. (Read more)

Attorneys’ Admission Examination
The attorneys’ admission examination, which is presented by the Law Society, must be successfully completed before admission. This examination is practice-orientated and can only be written:
once the aspirant attorney has completed a period of six months service under articles of clerkship or a service contract (community service at a law clinic)
once he/she has attended the full-time School for Legal Practice for a period of approximately six months. (Read More)

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. (Read more)

Appropriate legal experience
Provision has also been made that a person can apply for exemption from service under a contract if he has completed a five-year period in an area of ‘appropriate experience’.

Compulsory practical legal training
A person must attend a practical legal training course, which is recognised by a law society in South Africa. This can be either a short course of approximately five weeks during or after the period of articles or community service, or attendance of a full-time course at a School for Legal Practice of approximately six months. The Law Society of South Africa’s Legal Education and Development department (LEAD) has various branches of the School for Legal Practice: (Read more)

Language requirements
Although statutory language requirements for qualification have been abolished, it is important to note that individual universities may:
still have language requirements as part of their degree curricula or offer courses in such a language on an elective basis; and/or
require a minimum symbol at matric level, in certain languages.
The ability to communicate effectively is essential for all lawyers. Prospective lawyers should therefore make us of every opportunity to enhance their oral and written communication skills.

Screening of prospective candidate legal practitioners
A senior member of the Law Society will conduct a personal interview with a prospective candidate legal practitioner before registration of a service contract or contract of articles by the Law Society, in order to determine whether a person can be regarded as a fit and proper person for entering the profession. Specific attention will be given to previous convictions.

Promotion possibilities
• Professional Assistant with a practice of legal practitioners
• Junior Partner in a practice of legal practitioners;
• Senior Partner in a practice of legal practitioners; or
• Starting one’s own firm once admitted as legal practitioner.

Mandatory Practice Management
In terms of Sections 8 to 10 of the Judicial Matters Second Amendment Act 55 of 2003, a course in Practice Management has become mandatory for all legal practitioners who are to be issued with their first Legal Practitioners Fidelity Fund Certificates, subsequent to 14 August 2009. (Read More)