If you’re smart, diligent and a logical thinker with an interest in language, law is one of the most satisfying careers you could undertake. It’s constantly challenging and will exercise your talents to the full. It can also provide you with good financial reward, and it will give you the opportunity to help other people and make the world a fairer place. What do you need to know to set out on a law career?
When it comes to studying law, the good news is that you can qualify for law school based on educational proficiency in a wide range of subjects. The bad news is that you will need high grades in at least six of those subjects at high school, plus a decent Quantitative Literacy score and a high Academic Literacy score. Some South African universities will accept lower grades from applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds, but in that case you may be required to take additional classes to bring you up to speed. If you already have a university degree with a research component, you may be able to take a postgraduate conversion course.
Job options for law graduates
Taking up a law career doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be spending your days in a courtroom. You could become a solicitor, work as a researcher in a law firm or take up a place as a legal advisor for a public body or corporation. You could become a legal analyst, go into law journalism, or work in an affiliated profession, such as policing or customs and excise. Most lawyers develop specialities. Henner Diekmann is a successful lawyer who specialises in the structuring of transactions relating to investment. Based in Windhoek, Namibia, he has worked extensively on land management issues and has resolved disputes on behalf of a number of prominent companies. He is just one example of how diverse a law career can be.
Tips for students
No matter what stage you are at in your academic career, there are certain things you can do to increase your chances of getting into law.
- Work hard – even at high school, this will count in your favour. Good grades really matter, as do good references from your teachers.
- Keep your mind active – law requires a sharp intellect and law schools seek out those who are attentive, well informed and good at problem solving.
- Volunteer – law schools like students with a proven interest in helping others. They’ll like you even more if your volunteering shows you have good organisational skills.
- Take law courses – it’s never too early to get started. If your school can’t help, try online correspondence courses – some are available free.
- Seek an internship – look for opportunities to work and learn at a local law firm so you can become familiar with the sector.
Although many people like the idea of careers in law, relatively few are willing to put in the hard work that it takes to get to the top. If you are, you’ll find that the door is open for you, so don’t hesitate to make it happen.