You can study to be a lawyer so that you can make a difference in people’s lives. In South Africa most people aren’t aware of their rights and can’t afford to get expensive assistance when they need it. Most don’t get the opportunity to go to school, never mind to law school, and so they have no opportunity to learn about their rights. If you are privileged enough to be able to get a degree by passing your exams, and are privileged enough to attend one of South Africa’s universities, then you should think about giving back a little bit to the community that produced you. Whether you live in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria or Durban there are excellent courses available that could help you to empower thousands of people.
Most people study to be a lawyer because they know that they’ll make some nice money from the work. Money isn’t everything though, and the opportunity to give someone back control over their lives is entirely more valuable. Law school is a place where you can learn what the South African Constitution and legislation can protect you from and prevent against. Most universities offer several courses that end in exams, so that people have a good understanding of the different types of law that you can practice, and what the best firms are in Durban, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The thing is that the biggest and best firms might not be the firms where you can make the biggest and best difference. Community law firms and women’s law centres are extremely empowering places to work, and that empowerment extends out to the general populace much more quickly than by working for one of the top 5 firms. There are legal advocacy firms in most provinces, and certainly in Cape Town and Johannesburg. So if you are thinking about your career, think about how you can give back to the community when you study to be a lawyer.