Lawyers’ Salary in South Africa: See What They Earn

By | May 6, 2021
Lawyers’ Salary in South Africa

Did you know that lawyers are among the most paid professionals in South Africa?

As of 2016, the average monthly salary of a lawyer in South Africa is R 60,000 per month.

That said, this article will explain how lawyers have come to attain such high status, salaries and how you also can become a successful lawyer in South Africa and every other part of the world.

Lawyers Salary in South Africa

The salaries of lawyers vary across different fields. It also depends on the individual level of experience, competence and even your location. You don’t believe it? Look at this list below:

  • Lawyers in Johannesburg: Average annual salary = R 732,756 per annum
  • Lawyers in Cape Town: Average monthly salary = R 7,428 per month
  • Lawyers in Pretoria: Average monthly salary = R 22,368 per month

The figures above are based on 33 salaries submitted anonymously to Indeed by Junior Lawyer employees, users, and collected from past and present job advertisements on Indeed in the past 36 months.

The average salary for a Junior Lawyer is R 14 848 per month in South Africa.  Lawyers who have just graduated from college earn as little as R30, 000 per month while those who have worked in the industry for as long as 3 years earn in excess of R40, 000 per month. However, it is good to know that regardless of where you work as a lawyer, you can always determine what you earn as long as you have proven yourself good enough to win cases.

Also, if you are a College student and wondering if you should work with the Government or the private sector. Here is one free advice: do private practice. You see, a single client can pay up to R1 million if a case is sensitive and volatile. This is a deal you might not come across if you worked with the government.

Law is a rewarding and satisfying career, nonetheless one that demands your commitment. It is a highly competitive market and only those who are determined to bear the brunt of it will reap the fruit of high salaries.

What does it take to become a Lawyer in South Africa?

In South Africa, proficiency in the English language is extremely important. Students are required to study a great number of technical legal books and cases in English. The standard requirement before one can practice as a lawyer is completing an LLB degree which takes 4 years.  Alternatively, some students choose to first study a BCom or BA which takes 3 years and then study another 2 years to complete their LLB.

Universities such as WITS School of Law, South Africa admits students who have studied a BCom or BA degree and then offer LLB as a postgraduate degree. This takes a two or three year plan. Since they have had an opportunity to develop their critical and analytical skills in a first degree, they are equipped to deal with legal studies in an effective manner and may finish the LLB in three years.

By studying a BCom prior to an LLB, a prospective lawyer gains valuable skills and information about business and accounting. This additional knowledge might prove highly helpful when applying for articles at various law firms and will come in handy in practice.

What does a South African lawyer do?

There are two kinds of lawyers in South Africa, attorneys and advocates. An Attorney works in law firms, write contracts and meet with clients. An Advocate is the one who wears a robe and stands up to argue in front of a judge in court. When someone has a legal problem, they approach an attorney, who is expected to have a working knowledge of the legal issue at hand. 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 members of a “bar council” which is a body that helps to oversee and guide the law profession. They are primarily experts in the art of presenting and arguing cases in court. In order to become a good advocate, one has to have a good mastery of law and the facts of the case. Good judgment and the ability to present a case clearly and coherently are a must have.

Advocates also give legal opinions and help with the drafting of legal documents especially those related to their field of specialisation. When advocates reach a particular level of experience, they have a right to apply to the President for appointment as “senior counsel”.

Attorneys

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. Once the matter proceeds to court, it is handed over to an advocate. Before then, the attorney must define the legal issues and attempt to seek other ways to resolve the dispute while protecting the interest of his or her client.

Unlike advocates who practice alone, attorneys often form companies and firms and practice in partnership with each other.

How much money do lawyers make?

Once one has successfully completed one’s BCom/BA and/or LLB, one will have to commence the next part of one’s career as an attorney or advocate.

Attorney Salary

Doing your law articles as a candidate attorney takes 2 years in total at a law firm, or 6 months at the LEAD law school and 1 year at a law firm. Depending on which firm you get accepted into, the starting salaries can range from as low as R5000 per month to as high as R25 000 per month. Through hard work and valuable experience, your salary could reach upwards of R100 000 per month if you make partner or associate at a successful firm, or start your own successful practice.

In order to be admitted as an attorney you have to complete two years of law articles. During that time you will work in a law firm as a “candidate attorney” under the guidance of an attorney. Alternatively, an aspiring lawyer can do 1 year full time PLT course, and 1 year of articles. PLT is a compulsory course in practical legal training that every prospective attorney has to complete before they can be admitted as an attorney. The course teaches vital practical legal skills and to prepare you for board exams.

Advocate Salary

Most potential lawyers start off with a year of tutelage and do not receive a monthly salary. Once they qualify as advocates they are assigned the title of junior advocate, and it is up to them to market themselves, find clients and build their reputations. Some top advocates in South Africa charge up to R45 000 per day! But this takes many years of experience and a massive reputation.

The varying career path of a Modern Lawyer

Are you wondering if you really want to practice law?

A good knowledge of the law will prove highly beneficial in almost any career you might choose. Many leaders of industry, commerce and politics have a legal background. Law graduates often end up becoming in-house legal advisors at banks, insurance companies and other institutions that require frequent legal expertise. Many find this path less taxing because the stressful cases 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.

There is no doubt that earning a Law degree is an admirable achievement. You can always leverage on your experience as an attorney or skills as a student in a new business environment. However, making a lasting career transition from law to business requires goal setting and focused career planning. You can be rest assured that your legal backgrounds and expertise will contribute vastly to your success.

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