Four Ways To Get Your Law Degree

law degree

A simple guide to the four main law degrees in South Africa, and how to choose the right one for you. 

Both of my parents have studied law, my younger sister has chosen law as her desired field of study and coincidently, I have a lot of friends who have fallen in love with it. I, however, have gone astray as the black sheep of the family and… not chosen law. But that doesn’t mean I can’t help all you future law boffins.

Pursuing a degree in law can be the most exciting yet daunting experience ever. With loads of law degree options, that will lay the yellow brick road to numerous career possibilities, law students are spoilt for choice.  Depending on which career path you choose, you’ll probably never have a dull day. And with the abundance of reading material, you’ll always have a very insightful book list! Studying law is certainly not done in isolation to other subjects or fields. As a potential law student, you can expect to learn about various subjects such as business, human rights, the environment, politics and even economics.

But what do all these different degrees mean and how to choose one?

LLB Degree:

What?

Baccalaureus Legum: The LLB degree allows students to get an insightful understanding of the law, allowing them to apply it proficiently when serving communities and members of the public. (Successful completion of LLB allows for further studies in LLM)

Required to become a lawyer.

Academic Requirements

This degree requires you to write AQL NBT.

  • English ORAfrikaans Home Language 60%
  • English ORAfrikaans First Additional Language 70%

Universities

Wits/UJ/Rhodes/UP/UCT/UKZN/UL/ Fort Hare

Years & Careers

(Undergraduate 4 years and Postgraduate 3 years)
Attorney, legal advisor, lawyer, judge.

 

BA Law Degree:

What?

Baccalaureus Artium: This degree is an opportunity for students to acquire knowledge in the South African legal system as well as other law sectors such as constitutional law, private law, and customary law. Through this degree, students are able to take other subjects from other faculties such as Art and Social Sciences. (Modules credits count towards an LLB)

Academic Requirements

This degree requires you to write AQL NBT.

  • English Home language or 1st Add Lang: 60-69%
  • Mathematics: 50-59% or Mathematical Literacy: 50-59%

Universities

Wits/UJ/Rhodes/UP/UL

Years & Careers

(May apply for 2 years LLB after successful completion)
Commissioner
3 Years

Paralegal, Legal Assistant, Legal Secretary, Labour consultant,

 

 

BCom Law Degree:

What?

Baccalaureus Commercii: Like BA Law, this degree also provides students with sufficient knowledge on the South African law system but extends onto further learning on business enterprise law, private law, labour law and customary law too. The student will also be able to take subjects from other faculties, specifically Economics and Management Sciences. (Modules credits count towards an LLB)

3 Years and thus reduces LLB Postgrad to 2 years.

Academic Requirements

This degree requires you to write AQL and MAT NBT’s

  • English Home Language or 1st Add Language: 60-69%
  • Mathematics: 60-69%

Universities

Wits/UJ/Rhodes/UP

Years & Careers

3 Years
(May apply for LLB after successful completion)

Professional counselling, Negotiation and conflict resolution, Legal officer, Legal, Risk and Compliance consultant, Compliance officer, Legal advisor

BAccLLB Degree:

What?

This degree is a combination of two degrees, BAcc and LLB and provides students with knowledge on Law sciences as well as the required qualifications to work as a chartered accountant. Some subjects include Administrative law, private law and international law.

Academic Requirements

  • This degree requires you to write AQL and MAT NBT’s
  • Mathematics 70% OR Mathematics 60% and Accounting 70%
  • English or Afrikaans Home Language 60%
                                      OR
  • Afrikaans or English First Additional Language 70%

Universities

Stellenbosch

Years & Careers

5 Years

Chartered accountants, legal practitioners, with further career training

For some encouragement, here’s what recent LLB graduate, Michael Peacock, shared with me about his law-studying experience.

It’s a very niche degree and a very selective degree…you definitely need to be passionate about it. It’s a lot of work and it comes with a lot of expectations. It’s filled with late nights…it’s not about who’s a genius and who’s not, it’s about who’s willing to work hard and who’s willing to actually put in the work to get where they need to be. If you exhibit all of those good traits…and are hungry for education, you’ll do well. It’s also good to get involved in what you’re studying, I was a tutor in my final year and it gives you a whole new dynamic on what the law is.

National Benchmark Test

Operated by Universities South Africa (formerly known as Higher Education South Africa: HESA), the National Benchmark Tests (NBTs) are used to assess how prepared learners are for university.  

The Academic Literacy and Quantitative Literacy domains (AQL) are combined into one multiple-choice test. Each section has a specific time limit and a total of three hours writing time.  This is written by applicants of various programmes.

The second, Mathematics (MAT), is only written by applicants who have mathematics as a requirement for their course. The MAT test is also multiple-choice with the same time limit.

Final judgement

Apart from the above requirements, the personal criteria of a prospective lawyer are just as important when considering a career in law. Yes, it’s important to be ambitious and dedicated, but it’s also imperative to be confident, honest, decisive, fair and passionate about working with people.

For matric students who don’t meet the requirements of the above universities, explore UNISA as another option as their requirements aren’t based on different merits. After a successful first year, you could transfer your points to another university and continue your degree there, if necessary.

EduConnect 2cents

There are quite a few routes to take when considering a degree in law.  A big part of it also depends on which university you pick, so once you’ve decided on your degree, consult with a student liaison from the law faculty to direct you further. Alternatively, before making a set decision on law, job shadowing someone in the industry is a great idea. It’ll give you insight into the career and what your future could look like. If you aren’t completely certain that you’d like a career solely based on law, try getting into the BCom or BA Law degree as it will give you the option of changing qualifications without losing years.

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