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Legal Careers
Legal Careers

What am I going to do in this occupation?

Attorneys are the people with whom you first make contact when you seek legal advice or if you have a legal problem.

Advocates have specific knowledge in various areas of the law - especially in the presentation of cases in court.

The attorney
Attorneys handle a selection of affairs for individuals, companies and associations. There are attorneys who specialise in either commercial or criminal cases, or who focus on litigation, estate planning or tax-related matters.

The advocate
Advocates are experts in the art of presenting and arguing cases in court. At the moment, only advocates may present cases (appear) in the higher courts and in the Appeal Court in Bloemfontein. Advocates also give legal advice and help with the drafting of legal documents.

The legal adviser
The term "legal adviser" is used to describe lawyers employed by big companies and other organisations to provide legal advice and services to their employees.

The public prosecutor
Public prosecutors are employed by the Department of Justice to act as prosecutor, on behalf of the State, in criminal cases in the magistrate's court. Approximately 90 per cent of a public prosecutor's work takes place in court.

The state advocate
The Department of Justice also employs state advocates. They appear in the High Court on behalf of the State in criminal trials and their duties and responsibilities are basically the same as those of the public prosecutor. The only difference in their work is that state advocates appear mainly in the High Court and occasionally for important cases in the Magistrate's Court. They also handle all criminal appeals in the Appeal Court in Bloemfontein.

The state attorney
The State Attorney's Division of the Department of Justice functions like an ordinary firm of attorneys, except that its clients are the different departments of the government and not private individuals. The state attorneys’ major function is to protect the interests of the State by acting for all government departments and administrations in civil cases and for officials sued in their official capacity.

When the State buys or sells property, state attorneys are concerned with the contractual aspects and therefore, conveyancers in the State Attorney's Office undertake the preparation of deeds of transfer and bonds.

The magistrate
Magistrates in the district courts are expected to preside in criminal, civil and family (maintenance, children and family violence) matters. In order to qualify as a magistrate one of the following qualifications is needed: Dip.Iuris, B.Iuris, B.Proc or LLB degree. A specially designed course for magistrates must be attended at the Justice College in Pretoria and a probationary period has to be served. The Minister of Justice appoints all magistrates on the recommendation of the Magistrates Commission.

Criminal court magistrates
Magistrates hear criminal cases in a district court. They listen to all the evidence and arguments of the State and the defence or the accused person, and then pronounces judgment. When an accused person is convicted, it is also the duty of the magistrates to impose an appropriate sentence. Magistrates may hear any criminal cases except for murder, rape or certain other cases that are heard in the Regional Court at the request of the Attorney-General.

The civil magistrate
Civil magistrates hear civil cases. Magistrates also preside over applications and motions. A civil magistrate may hear cases with a claim value of up to R100 000.

The senior civil magistrate
Senior civil magistrates do the same work as civil magistrates, however, senior civil magistrates hear cases with claim value of up to R200 000. A LLB-degree or Dip.Legum is required in order to qualify for appointment as a senior civil magistrate. These courts have still to be established and magistrates still have to be appointed.

The family magistrate
It is the duty of the family magistrates to hear all cases concerning the family. Family courts will in future deal with all family matters. This includes divorce cases. However, family courts dealing with divorce matters still have to be established and family magistrates still have to be appointed. The magistrates decide, after hearing all the parties, what maintenance should be paid in respect of children and other dependants, when children are in need of proper care and should be placed in foster care, children’s homes and industrial schools, as well as whether the granting of interdicts to prevent family violence is justified. An LLB-degree is required in order to qualify as a family magistrate.

The regional magistrate
Regional magistrates adjudicate criminal cases in the Regional Court. Cases such as rape, murder as well as other serious cases such as armed robbery, are heard in the Regional Court. They can also impose more severe sentences than a district magistrate. They are subject to a further selection process and must have either a LLB-degree or a Dip.Legum to qualify for appointment.

The state law adviser
The State Law Advisers Division of the Department of Justice consists of a group of qualified and versatile lawyers who have usually already made their mark as state advocates. These advocates are excellent legal researchers who provide the State with legal advice and are entrusted with the drafting and revision of legislation (laws).

The registrar of the High Court
Registrars can also be described as the "secretaries" of the High Court. It is their task to ensure that everything runs smoothly in court. There is a registrar at each of the High Courts and Appeal Courts. The functions of registrars are mainly administrative.

What kind of personality do I need?

Apart from general characteristics like ambition, dedication and a disciplined approach, a person also needs to possess special characteristics like being impeccably honest, decisive, objective, confident and be able to solve problems. They must also be able to handle stress and pressure, to resolve any crisis and elicit the utmost trust and respect from their clients and colleagues. Because of their constant interaction with people, persons planning a career in Law, must have exceptional communication skills and be able to explain difficult legal concepts in easy terms. However, the most important characteristic is a well-developed sense of fairness and justice and the willingness to serve people.

What kind of school training do I need?

A Senior Certificate with matric exemption is required in order to pursue studies in Law.

Compulsory school subjects: Afrikaans and English on higher grade.

Recommended school subjects: None.

What further training do I need?

With regard to academic qualifications, most South African universities offer the following diplomas and degrees:

  • Diploma Iuris.
  • B.Iuris.
  • BA (Law).
  • B.Com. (Law).
  • BLC (Only at the University of Pretoria).
  • B.Proc.
  • LL.B.
  • LL.M.
  • LL.D.
  • Specialised diplomas/certificates in Tax, Human Rights, Labour Law.

More details on the content and duration of the different courses can be obtained from any of the university Law Faculties. Where can I work?

If you pursue a career in Law you can work at one of the following institutions:

  • Department of Justice.
  • Legal firms as attorney or advocate.
  • Public and private companies as legal adviser.
  • Other government departments as legal officer or legal adviser.

Can I work for myself in this occupation?

Only as attorney or advocate. All other occupations are within a government department, company or organisation.

Sourced from: Labournet


Sourced From:   Labournet


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