Law can be an exciting and rewarding field, but one that requires a lot of commitment and dedication. So before you get stuck in, we suggest that you find out as much as possible about this career path, and only do it if it feels like a calling. Once you decide to try your hand in law, you need to make a firm commitment. It is a competitive and field and one that requires a sustained effort in order to reap the rewards. This article highlights the basic career paths available.
What does a lawyer do?
There are two kinds of lawyers in South Africa, attorneys and advocates. Attorney works in law firms, write contracts and meet with clients, while advocate are the ones that wear a robe and stand up to argue in front of a judge. When someone has a legal problem, they approach an attorney, who is expected to have a good working knowledge of all aspects of the law. When the matter goes to court the attorney has to “brief” an advocate who, based on the information and instruction given to him by the attorney, argues the matter in court.
Advocates are self employed but are generally member of a “bar council” which is a body that helps to oversees and guides the profession. Advocates are primarily experts in the art of presenting and arguing cases in court. This requires a mastery of law and the facts of the case, good judgment and the ability to present a case clearly and coherently. Each case requires good preparation and organization. Advocates also give legal opinions and help with the drafting of legal documents that are required in every walk of life, be it commercial, industrial or domestic. Good advocates usually enjoy a good financial success and growth opportunities. When advocates have reached a particular level of experience in practice, they are entitled to apply to the President for appointment as “senior counsel”. Judges of the High Court are often appointed form the ranks of senior counsel. Can you see yourself as a judge one day? Why not? Click here to find out how to become an advocate.
Like advocates, attorneys can now also appear in the higher courts. In practice however, court appearance is still usually handled by advocates. The attorney is the person with whom you first make contact when you seek legal advice. The service that he or she supplies needs to be broad enough to cover a wide field of legal problems. Only once the matter proceeds to court does it get handed over to an advocate. But before then the attorney must define the legal issues and attempt to seek alternative ways to resolve the dispute while protecting the interest of his or her client. Unlike advocates who practice alone, attorneys often form professional companies and firms, and practice in partnership with each other. Many attorneys consider themselves to be general practitioners: However, as a result of the increasing complexity of life the trend is towards specialization. Therefore, there are attorneys who specialize in either commercial or criminal cases, or who focus on litigation, estate planning or tax-related matters. Click here to find out how to become an attorney.
A good knowledge of the law will prove usefull in almost any career you might choose. Many leaders or industry, commerce and politics have a legal background. Law graduates often end up becoming in house legal advisors at banks and other companies that require frequent legal expertise. Those that do not enjoy the pressures of being a lawyer may find that this path is less taxing because the stressfull litigation usually gets outsourced to law firms. Another option for law graduates is to become a prosecutor. A prosecutor is the lawyer that acts on behalf of the government against people accused of a crime. Prosecutors get exposure to a wide variety of legal situations and this provides an excellent learning experience and an interesting career.
Yoni Balkind is an admitted attorney, digital communication specialist, and founder of Go Legal. This article originally appeared on Go Legal.