Find Legal expertise in South Africa
- Legal System
The South African legal system is based on English Common Law, Roman-Dutch Law and customary law. The court structure follows a common model of magistrates’ courts, the High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal. Constitutional matters, along with human rights cases, fall within the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg.
The legal profession is traditionally divided into two distinct branches, namely advocates and attorneys. Legal practitioners are not permitted to practice in both areas. Advocates are experts in trial, motion court, appellate and opinion advocacy. Attorneys have specialised and general practices and deal directly with the public, briefing advocates when their expertise is needed. Clients access the advocates’ services through instruction from an attorney.
An LLB is a normal prerequisite for both paths to qualification: attorney and advocate. Once an aspiring advocate has completed a period of pupillage and passed the Bar Examination they can register as an advocate with any of South Africa’s ten bar associations, which regulate advocates in various parts of the country. Qualified attorneys should have completed the attorneys’ admission examination, which is presented by the Law Society, and at least two years of service under a contract of articles. Foreign lawyers may practice law within certain limitations; in order to practice in all areas they must retrain and qualify as a South African attorney and be recognised by the provincial association. Foreign firms however are not permitted to practice local law in South Africa.
The General Council of the Bar of South Africa is an independent federal body that governs most advocates in the country; they have constituent bars in each of the nine provinces. The Law Society of South Africa is the main national body for attorneys. There are over 4000 legal practitioners and a vast number of legal firms operating in South Africa. The largest include Adams & Adams, Bowman Gilfillan, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, ENS (Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs), Norton Rose LLP, Webber Wentzel, and Werksmans Attorneys.
Information from the World Economic Forum, The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013
Legal rights index
Efficiency of legal framework in settling disputes
Efficiency of legal framework in challenging regulations
Property rights (including financial assets)
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