How to Become an Advocate in South Africa: A Step-by-Step Guide

Pursuing a career as an advocate in South Africa is a prestigious and challenging journey that requires dedication and a thorough understanding of the legal system. Advocates, also known as barristers, specialize in courtroom advocacy, legal opinions, and the drafting of legal documents. This guide provides a clear and detailed roadmap for aspiring advocates, outlining the necessary educational qualifications, practical training, and professional steps required to practice law at the Bar in South Africa.

What We’ll Discuss

  1. Complete a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) Degree
  2. Complete Practical Legal Training (PLT)
  3. Complete Pupillage
  4. Pass the Bar Exam
  5. Admission as an Advocate
  6. Join a Bar Association
  7. Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

By following these steps, you can successfully navigate the path to becoming a respected advocate in South Africa, equipped with the skills and knowledge to excel in the legal profession.

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.

Requirements:

  • 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 (PLT)

Options:

  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. Complete Pupillage

Duration: 12 months

Description:

  • Pupillage is a compulsory training period under the supervision of a practicing advocate at an approved Bar.
  • Location: Various Bars across South Africa, such as the Johannesburg Bar, Pretoria Bar, and Cape Bar.

Stipend: Pupillage is generally unpaid, so financial preparation is essential.

4. Pass the Bar Exam

Administered by: General Council of the Bar of South Africa (GCB)

Components:

  • Legal Practice and Procedure
  • Ethics
  • Drafting
  • Trial Advocacy

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

5. Admission as an Advocate

Process:

  • Apply to the High Court for admission as an advocate.
  • Application Fee: Approximately R2,500.
  • Submit proof of:
    • LLB degree.
    • Completion of Pupillage.
    • Passing the Bar exam.

6. Join a Bar Association

Description:

  • Advocates must join a Bar Association (e.g., Johannesburg Bar, Pretoria Bar).
  • Membership allows advocates to practice and provides access to resources and ongoing training.

Annual Fees: Vary by Bar Association but typically range from R5,000 to R15,000.

7. Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

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

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Organizations:

  • General Council of the Bar of South Africa (GCB)
  • Various Bar Associations

Career Path and Opportunities

Potential Employers:

  • Self-Employed: Most advocates are self-employed and work in chambers.
  • Legal Aid South Africa: Provides opportunities for advocates to work on a range of cases.
  • Government: Positions within the Department of Justice or as public prosecutors.

Salaries:

  • Entry-Level Advocate: R200,000 – R300,000 per year
  • Experienced Advocate: R500,000 – R1,200,000 per year
  • Senior Counsel (SC): R1,000,000 – R3,000,000+ per year

Conclusion

Becoming an advocate in South Africa is a rigorous and rewarding process, involving extensive education and training. From completing an LLB degree to passing the Bar exam and completing pupillage, each step is essential in developing the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in this prestigious profession. By following this guide, you can navigate the path to becoming a qualified advocate and embark on a fulfilling legal career. For more detailed information on each step, refer to the respective sections of this guide.