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Studying law

This is going to be another negative article of mine about studying law, but I want to emphasise before I begin it, that there are exceptions to everything.  Somebody with a good brain and who is hard working and with excellent client liaison skills will always do well in any field, no matter how many challenges they face.  

One cannot however ignore that unfortunately law degrees have become far too popular, especially after they were made much easier to obtain when you no longer had to get an under-graduate, or first degree first, before studying a law degree. The advantage of having that first degree is that you have a chance to get an education, to study various other subjects and not just learn about a very narrow field of law.  Too many younger attorneys being admitted to the profession have a very little idea as to what is going on in the world and I think to be a good attorney, you do need to have an idea of what is going on in business, politics and the world you live in and be able to adapt to it.  Those who do not read newspapers or at least the news online, are very unlikely, in my opinion, to succeed, and I can say without exception that the successful attorneys as well as advocates that I know are equally conversant on the law as they are on what sport event took place on that day, what the latest in South African politics is, the world economy or other such issues.  There may be exceptions to that, but I have not come across them yet.  

The challenges that the legal profession face is a continuing stream of new entrants into the legal field, while so much work is being taken away from attorneys and other areas are under constant threat such as personal injury law.  Even when they are not under threat, they face the spectre of legal fees being reduced at the very same time that overheads are rising.  I don’t think it is too far away from the day when you go shopping at a Pick ‘n Pay Hypermarket for example, that there will be two or three attorneys sitting in the entrance who disburse a quick 15 minutes of advice to loyal shoppers, who have a membership card, on maintenance or various other issues.   I am bombarded with CV’s for people who wish to become either candidate attorneys or who have just been admitted as attorneys and would like a job with our firm.  Without exception they would obviously have a four year University degree and yet in training they seem to be earning an average salary of about R4 500,00 to R6 000,00 a month and as a beginner attorney, they are earning approximately R10 000,00 a month and a bit more if they are lucky enough to have started off at a busy and successful practice.  I am obviously not talking about the salaries at the big five or six major corporate law firms who take the cream of the talent from the law schools every year – only those with the very highest marks.  

I am talking about salaries being paid at average law firms all across the bigger cities like Johannesburg and Pretoria, which happen to pay far higher salaries than one would earn in Cape Town, Durban or smaller centres.  I think that that is all you need to know about the state of the legal profession – is it worth it to study for four years, then do one or two years of articles, write admission exams and once you have been through all of that, which could easily be 6 to 6 ½ years, to earn R10 000,00 a month?  The AMCU miners are after all demanding R12 500,00 a month and every law firm owner will tell you that he or she has a number of secretaries employed by him or her that earn more than attorneys.  All what these figures point to is a complete over-supply of people to a profession and we are producing far too many attorneys instead of engineers and possibly top policemen and policewomen/investigators who can reduce our crime and cut down our corruption.

A law degree is certainly very useful in business and more and more often it leads to attorneys, after a year or two in practice, joining corporate firms for a small increase over what they are earning in a law firm with the guarantee of benefits, etc.  That is a personal choice but I never studied law and obtained three University degrees just so that I could become a legal officer, consultant or compliance assistance in a corporate entity.  That is not what law is about to me and unfortunately there too, apart from those really brilliant individuals who have stepped into companies at senior positions, most of those going into that particular field, while initially getting a higher increase, will never be able to achieve what they could have, being a practicing attorney in a law firm .  That may to appear to contradict what I have just written – but it does not.  I began this article by saying that is that anybody who has ability and is hard working will get ahead despite the terrible challenges facing the profession.  But law schools and parents should really start trying to steer their children in a different direction at the moment and not putting them all into the same field!

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 08-Apr-14


Studying law

Comments

Monique  said...
on Tuesday 22-Apr-14 11:45 AM
I completely agree with the above article. I seem to come across more and more people who are entering the legal fraternity. Its such a specialized field, however, so many attorneys are stuck without a job. However, with that said, i still firmly believe that you can do and be successful in anything you set your mind to. If you want it bad enough- you will work for it.

Melissa  said...
on Tuesday 22-Apr-14 06:26 AM
Every person should strive for obtaining a degree. This does not only improve your skills but also your knowledge and understanding most of the procedures you have to following in certain matters.

Jade  said...
on Friday 11-Apr-14 07:52 AM
It is very apparent that there is a large influx of law graduates in recent years. My law classes were crowded and thus it follows, that it is a very competitive field to go into.
I agree that if you work hard, it is inevitable that you will get ahead. But when I say you must work hard, I think this includes a myriad of things that maybe aren't obvious for example it includes working hard on your interaction skills as you have to be good with co-workers, clients, advocates and other attorneys. This also includes building on your knowledge of various fields because the law does not function in isolation, I can't tell you how invaluable my BA has been, and people scoffed that I opted to study for 5 years to get 2 degrees instead of 4 for the straight LLB. They asked why I would bother wasting my time studying sociology, english lit, other languages and psychology. Like I said, law does not live in isolation, & it is very competitive, so who would not opt to do another degree before or after their LLB? It just makes perfect sense.
The law is not stagnant, it is constantly changing and we must adapt with it. My understanding of this is that you must never stop learning when you enter into the legal profession. You must be prepared to constantly read, not just about the law, but about current affairs and every subject.
"Once you stop learning, you start dying" rings true for this profession.

Elektra  said...
on Friday 11-Apr-14 07:19 AM
I feel there is no bigger competition than yourself. Yes there my be on average 400 graduating per class. However if you wanted to work at the big 5, you should have known what is expected in order to get there, so if you have not landed at the top of the food chain, you obviously did not put in the effort that someone else did. But that being said, should you have started at a lower level on the ladder its only you who is going to climb it, no one is going to do it for you. So its how you prove yourself to work your way up that ladder at a rapid pace. "If you want it go get it, don't let anyone or anything stand in your way" Hurdle over any obstacle and finish on top.

Bianca R  said...
on Wednesday 09-Apr-14 06:18 AM
There is eventually going to be too many people where law degrees and not enough positions in the field for them to enter. I do believe that studying and obtaining a degree is however a very good idea and also a nice back up.

Sorea  said...
on Wednesday 09-Apr-14 06:05 AM
I have to agree with most of the above. The important part here is to remember that if you are motivated to succeed, you will. No matter which field you are going to tackle.

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