Congratulations, you’ve applied to study the noble profession of law and you are now introduced to a whole plethora of intimidating prescribed textbooks and reading material. This is enough to shock you into admitting defeat and running in the opposite direction.
While completing you LLB studies, a lot of emphasis is placed on memorizing the prescribed theory and regurgitating the content during texts and exams, as you can imagine that an exceptional transcript will give you an advantage and grant you access into various prestigious law firms to complete your articles.
At this stage, a gut ranching disillusionment will set in, because actually working and practising the law is nothing like what we see on television. On the contrary, the legal profession isn’t about people paying a lot of money but mainly to solve their legal problems and early on you must develop the necessary skills to deal with the professions challenges, because there are a many of those.
When in school, there are modules you can choose that will better prepare you for legal practice. These modules include, Moot Court and Law Clinic which have been established in different universities to assist in introducing students to the practicalities of the profession.
If you have not taken the initiative to supplement your theoretical knowledge with practical experience, you might get left behind and start feeling intimidated and overwhelmed by the magnitude of responsibilities that will be placed on you during your time as a candidate attorney. Contract of articles are designed to train and equip you with all the tools you need to be an effective member of the Law Society.
During your time as a candidate attorney after completing your studies, you will be expected to complete tasks that are relevant to that particular firms chosen speciality. These include drafting letters and legal documents, engaging with clients and appearing at the District Courts and eventually the Regional Courts if it falls within the scope of practice.
To ease these growing pains, it is advisable to volunteer at a law firm or law community centres during vacations while you’re still studying before you go into practice full time. Practical experience is invaluable and this will add to your capabilities. Self- study is equally as important, make a habit of reading different legal papers in law journals, this way you can stay up to date with what is current and what is developing in the state of law.
During your articles/ candidacy, there are programmes offered by the Legal Education and Development Education (LEAD) that prepares you for your Board Exams, which one needs to write to to eventually get admission as an attorney in the High Courts of South Africa.
It is very important to remember that in order to gain entrance and practice law one has be be “fit and proper”. This means that you cannot have a criminal record or may have been involved in any illegal activities that may bar you from working in the legal industry.
Finally, take a deep breath and throw yourself into the whole process and embrace every challenging situation as these assist in moulding you into a highly effective and respected member of the profession.
Katlego Mojahi is an LLB graduate from the University Of North West, and is currently preparing for her final board exams. She completed her articles and is pursuing her Bcom Law degree.