How to Become a Lawyer in South Africa: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Become a Lawyer in South Africa: A Step-by-Step Guide:

Have you ever thought about becoming a lawyer in South Africa? The path to becoming a legal professional is rigorous but incredibly rewarding. Here is something shocking: only about 20% of law graduates in South Africa successfully complete all the steps to become practicing attorneys.

This means you’ll need dedication, perseverance, and a clear roadmap to join this elite group!

In this guide, we’ll provide a detailed, step-by-step approach to help you navigate the process, backed by real statistics and evidence-based information. From obtaining your LLB degree to passing the board exams and fulfilling community service requirements, we’ve got you covered. Read on to discover the exact steps you need to take to achieve your legal aspirations.

1. Complete a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) Degree

Duration: 4 years (full-time)

Where to Study:

  • University of Cape Town (UCT): Ranked #1 in South Africa for law.
  • University of the Witwatersrand (Wits): Ranked #2 in South Africa for law.
  • University of Pretoria (UP): Ranked #3 in South Africa for law.


  • National Senior Certificate (NSC) with a bachelor’s pass.
  • Minimum APS score: Typically around 34-36.
  • Subjects: English (Home Language or First Additional Language), Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy, and Life Orientation.


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2. Complete Practical Legal Training


  1. Attend Practical Legal Training (PLT) School: Accredited by the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA). This can be completed over six months (full-time) or 12 months (part-time).
    • Institutions:
      • Legal Education and Development (LEAD)
      • School for Legal Practice
    • Cost: Approximately R12,000 – R15,000.
  2. Articles of Clerkship: A two-year internship under a practicing attorney.
    • Stipend: R4,000 – R10,000 per month, depending on the law firm.

3. Pass the Board Exams

Administered by: Law Society of South Africa (LSSA)


  • Legal Practice:
  • Procedural Law:
  • Court Procedures:
  • Ethics:

Cost: Approximately R3,000 – R5,000 per exam.

4. Complete Community Service (Compulsory)

Duration: One year of community service at a designated law clinic or organization.

Purpose: To gain practical experience and serve the community.

Stipend: Varies depending on the organization.

5. Admission as an Attorney


  • Apply to the High Court for admission as an attorney.
  • Application Fee: Approximately R2,500.
  • Submit proof of:
    • LLB degree.
    • Completion of PLT or Articles.
    • Passing board exams.
    • Completion of community service.

6. Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

Requirement: Attorneys must complete a certain number of CPD hours annually to maintain their practice status.


  • Law Society of South Africa (LSSA)
  • South African Legal Practice Council (LPC)

Career Path and Opportunities

Potential Employers:

  • Law Firms: Bowmans, ENSafrica, Webber Wentzel
  • Corporate Legal Departments: Standard Bank, Sasol, MTN
  • Government: Department of Justice, National Prosecuting Authority
  • NGOs: Legal Resources Centre, Lawyers for Human Rights


  • Entry-Level Attorney: R150,000 – R300,000 per year
  • Experienced Attorney: R500,000 – R1,000,000 per year
  • Specialist Attorney (e.g., Intellectual Property, Tax): R800,000 – R2,000,000+ per year
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Becoming a lawyer in South Africa involves a structured and rigorous process, from completing an LLB degree to passing board exams and fulfilling community service requirements. By following these steps, you can achieve your goal of becoming a qualified attorney. For more detailed information on each step, including institutions and costs, please refer to the respective sections of this guide.

Read: What High School Subjects are Needed to study Law (LLB): Become a Lawyer in South Africa