Types of lawyers in South Africa

Tuesday, October 25, 2022, 12:12
Author name
Andrew Banks
A professional woman behind a desk to represent different types of lawyers in South Africa.

A lawyer is generally referred to as anyone in South Africa who practices law.  However, to be allowed to practice law you need to be admitted as an attorney or advocate.  They are licensed to practice law and obligated to uphold the law while protecting their client’s rights.  In this article, we refer to advocates and attorneys as lawyers.

Lawyers can earn anything from R400 000 - R3 500 000 per year, depending on experience and qualifications. Broadly speaking lawyers perform a variety of duties such as:

  • Providing legal advice and counsel
  • Drawing up legal documents like contracts and wills
  • Prosecuting/defending in court
  • Gathering information or evidence
  • Mediating disputes

Because the law is so broad, it is impossible for a single lawyer to provide legal counsel across all the different areas of law.  That is why much like medical doctors who specialise in a specific area of the body, lawyers also specialise in one or two related areas of law.  This means that there are many types of lawyers in South Africa.  We will explore some of these types of lawyers here, and what they do.


Divorce lawyer

When terminating a marriage there are many legal aspects that need to be addressed.  These may include legal filings, division of assets, and child custody.  Divorce lawyers specialise in dealing with these details.  All while trying to ensure they protect their client’s rights and secure a just settlement for their clients once the marriage has been legally dissolved.  This requires a divorce lawyer to be an attentive listener and that they remain non-judgemental, so they can deal with the wide variety of clients this type of lawyer can encounter. 


Family lawyer

Family lawyers deal with everything to do with direct family matters.  This can include adoption, surrogacy, estate or family planning, child custody, prenuptial agreements, and even divorce. Many mistakenly believe that divorce law and family law are one and the same, however, divorce is only one of the many issues a family lawyer deals with.

This is why a family lawyer can handle a divorce case, but a divorce lawyer lacks the expertise to represent clients in other family law matters.  Family lawyers represent their clients in family court proceedings and negotiations.  They are also responsible for drafting any necessary legal documents.


Immigration lawyer

Immigrating can be a very complicated process, with many possible issues that can arise.  That is why immigration lawyers assist with the process by preparing paperwork, testimony, and statements.  Additionally, they will usually act as mediators between clients and immigration authorities.  They can also assist with citizenship tests and represent individuals in court to prevent their deportation.


Criminal lawyer

Criminal lawyers represent defendants and organisations facing criminal charges.  Criminal charges include things like fraud, domestic violence, theft, violent crimes, sex crimes, and drug-related crimes.  Criminal lawyers are usually tasked with investigating a case, interviewing witnesses, and researching the case to build a defense and develop a case strategy.  They will also negotiate with the prosecution to secure a plea bargain, and during the trial, they will advocate for the defendant.


Accident and personal injury lawyer

These lawyers provide legal assistance to those who claim to have suffered physical and/or psychological injuries, due to the negligence of another person or entity.  They help people who have suffered injuries get reimbursement for the costs incurred by their injuries.  This compensation helps the injured party pay for medical expenses or recoup lost wages.  Common causes for accident and personal injury lawyers include traffic collisions, workplace injuries, defective products, and professional malpractice.  Most of these cases are settled without going to trial, however, sometimes a victim’s only hope of receiving compensation is through a full civil trial.  Therefore, accident and personal injury lawyers assist with the complex litigation process.


Business and corporate lawyer

Business and corporate lawyers handle legal issues for publicly held companies and privately held businesses.  They deal with employment law, contracts, sales, and business organisation. They also deal with mergers and acquisitions of companies.  Additionally, they handle cases dealing with intellectual property.  Of the many types of lawyers in South Africa, corporate lawyers are on average the highest paid, they can earn as much as R3 500 000 per annum. View our Business law course.


Bankruptcy lawyer

Bankruptcy lawyers assist individuals and organisations with filing for bankruptcy. As these filing processes are very complicated bankruptcy lawyers tend to handle the paperwork from start to finish as well as supply legal advice.  They meet with clients to review income and assets, determine if they should file for bankruptcy, and determine which chapter of bankruptcy to file. The bankruptcy lawyer then helps ensure the client meets any obligations required by the bankruptcy trustee and will keep the client up to date regarding the proceedings.


Labour law lawyer

Labour law lawyers deal with the employer-employee relationship which includes contracts, protection against discrimination, sexual harassment, wages and hours, and health and safety. These lawyers advise both employers and employees on labour laws to ensure that there is consistent and fair treatment.  They can also advise employees on their rights to unionise and their responsibilities with regard to union workers.



With these and more types of lawyers in South Africa, all with high earning potentials, it is easy to see why so many people want to become lawyers.  Therefore, it is important that if you want to become more than just a lawyer you set yourself apart from the rest by becoming an attorney. The Gawie le Roux Institute of Law offers the best course in South Africa to pass your Attorneys’ admission exams.  This course will provide you with the knowledge and understanding you need to pass your exams so you can become the best type of attorney that you possibly can.


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