Types of Law Courses in South Africa

Types of Law Courses in South Africa?

In South Africa, the main types of law courses available are the Bachelor of Laws (LLB), the Master of Laws (LLM), and the Doctor of Laws (LLD). These courses can be pursued at various universities across the country, each offering different specializations and formats.

Bachelor of Laws (LLB)

The Bachelor of Laws (LLB) is the basic professional degree for practicing law in South Africa. It can be undertaken as a first degree immediately after completing high school or as a second degree if you already hold an undergraduate degree in another discipline. The LLB program generally lasts four years (if taken directly after high school) or two years (as a postgraduate option). It covers core legal subjects such as constitutional law, criminal law, civil procedure, corporate law, and more.


  • Criminal Law: Focuses on laws related to crime and the legal processes from arrest to trial.
  • Corporate Law: Pertains to the legal aspects of business, including mergers, acquisitions, and corporate governance.
  • Constitutional Law: Centers on the rights contained in the South African Constitution and their application.
  • Environmental Law: Deals with laws aimed at protecting the environment.
  • Family Law: Involves matters such as divorce, child custody, and adoption.
  • Labor Law: Focuses on the relationship between employers, employees, and unions.


  • Legal Practitioner (Attorney or Advocate): Represents clients in court, provides legal advice, and drafts legal documents.
  • Corporate Counsel: Legal advisor in a corporation, handling contractual agreements, compliance issues, and corporate governance.
  • Public Prosecutor: Works for the state to prosecute individuals accused of crimes.
  • Legal Advisor in NGOs or Government: Provides legal guidance on policy, compliance, and regulatory matters.
  • Family Lawyer: Specializes in legal issues involving family relationships.
  • Labor Relations Specialist: Manages labor disputes and ensures compliance with labor laws.
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Master of Laws (LLM)

The Master of Laws (LLM) is a postgraduate degree that allows legal professionals or LLB graduates to specialize in a particular area of law. Common specializations include human rights law, environmental law, tax law, international law, and commercial law, among others. The duration of LLM programs typically ranges from one to two years and can involve a combination of coursework and research.


  • Human Rights Law: Focuses on laws that protect individual rights and freedoms.
  • Tax Law: Deals with the laws governing taxation.
  • Intellectual Property Law: Pertains to the protection of creations of the mind, such as patents and copyrights.
  • International Law: Concerns laws and principles that govern the conduct of states and international organizations.
  • Commercial Law: Deals with areas such as bankruptcy, sales, and contracts.


  • Specialist Legal Consultant: Provides expert advice in a specialized field of law.
  • University Lecturer: Teaches at tertiary institutions and engages in academic research.
  • Senior Legal Advisor: Works in government, corporations, or law firms in a specialized advisory capacity.
  • International Lawyer: Works with cross-border legal issues, often in international firms or agencies.
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer: Manages patent applications, copyright registrations, and litigation.

Doctor of Laws (LLD)

The Doctor of Laws (LLD) is the highest academic qualification in the field of law, focusing on extensive research. Candidates must produce a dissertation that makes a significant and original contribution to the field of law. This program is suitable for those aiming to pursue careers in academic research or high-level advisory positions. The duration varies based on the research topic and the candidate’s pace but typically takes a minimum of two to four years to complete.


  • Advanced Constitutional Law: In-depth study of constitutional cases, theory, and applications.
  • Advanced International Law: Specialized study in complex international legal issues, including human rights and international economic law.
  • Jurisprudence: Focuses on the theoretical and philosophical aspects of law.
  • Legal History: Studies the development and changes in law over time.


  • Academic Researcher: Conducts in-depth research and publishes scholarly articles and books.
  • University Professor: Teaches advanced courses and supervises research at university level.
  • High-Level Legal Consultant: Provides specialized legal advice to governments, international organizations, or large corporations.
  • Policy Maker: Involved in crafting and influencing public policy at a national or international level.

Diplomas and Certificates

In addition to degrees, there are various diplomas and certificates available for those interested in specific areas of law or for legal professionals looking to enhance their skills. Examples include diplomas in labor law, certificates in forensic investigation, and courses in intellectual property law.

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Diplomas and certificates in law in South Africa offer specialized knowledge and skills in specific areas of law without the extended commitment required for full degree programs. These qualifications can enhance career prospects, provide essential legal skills, and are particularly valuable for professionals who interact with legal issues in their jobs but do not intend to practice law in a traditional legal role. Here’s an overview of some common diplomas and certificates available, along with potential career paths for each.

Common Diplomas and Certificates in Law

Postgraduate Diploma in Law

This diploma is designed for LLB graduates who wish to specialize further or for professionals whose work requires advanced legal knowledge. Specializations might include tax law, environmental law, or human rights law.

Diploma in Legal Studies

This qualification is typically pursued by individuals who need a foundational understanding of law for their careers but do not intend to become qualified lawyers. It covers basics such as the South African legal system, contract law, and criminal law.

Certificate in Compliance

This certificate focuses on compliance management, risk assessment, and understanding the legal environment of business operations. It is ideal for compliance officers and managers in various industries.

Certificate in Forensic and Investigative Auditing

This program equips individuals with the skills to detect and prevent fraud within organizations. It combines legal knowledge with financial auditing skills.

Certificate in Conveyancing and Notarial Practice

These specialized legal certificates enable qualified lawyers to practice as conveyancers or notaries in South Africa, focusing on property law and the preparation of legal documents.

Career Opportunities

Legal Consultant

Individuals with a postgraduate diploma often work as consultants specializing in a particular area of law, providing expert advice to businesses, government agencies, or non-profits.

Compliance Officer

Those with a certificate in compliance can work in various sectors including banking, insurance, healthcare, and more, ensuring that organizations adhere to legal standards and regulations.

Forensic Auditor

Graduates from a forensic and investigative auditing program can work in law enforcement, private investigation, or within corporate settings, focusing on uncovering financial discrepancies and fraudulent activities.

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Conveyancer or Notary Public

With the necessary certification, lawyers can specialize in property transfers, drafting of wills, and other legal documents requiring official notarization.

Legal Education Trainer

Educators with specialized diplomas or certificates can teach in their areas of expertise, contributing to the training of other professionals on legal matters relevant to various industries.

These diplomas and certificates provide a practical, focused educational path that can open doors to specialized careers where legal expertise is required but a full law degree may not be necessary. They embody the principle that “knowledge is power,” especially when it comes to navigating the complexities of law in professional contexts.

Choosing the Right Course

When choosing a law course, consider your career goals, the areas of law that interest you, and the reputation of the institution offering the program. Each university may have a different focus or strength in certain areas of law, which can influence your decision.

“Justice is the firm and continuous desire to render to everyone that which is his due.” – Justinian I. This quote underscores the fundamental aim of studying law: to uphold and administer justice effectively.


Is LLB Considered an Honours Degree in South Africa?

In South Africa, the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) is classified as an honours-level qualification. This designation means that the LLB goes beyond a basic undergraduate degree in terms of depth and complexity of study. Typically, an LLB as an honours degree involves more specialized coursework and requires students to demonstrate a higher level of independent thinking and research capabilities.

What Qualifications do I need to be a lawyer in South Africa

To become a lawyer in South Africa, you need:

  1. Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from a recognized university.
  2. Pass the Legal Practice Council (LPC) Examinations.
  3. Complete Articles of Clerkship (two years of practical training under a practicing attorney).
  4. Fulfill a community service requirement at a legal aid institution.
  5. Apply for and obtain admission as an attorney from the High Court.

To become an advocate, you must also complete a pupillage (one-year apprenticeship) and pass the Bar examination after obtaining your LLB.