The past two years have been punctuated by uncertainty. The coronavirus pandemic will undoubtedly go down in the history books as a grim period starting when, on 31 December 2019, the World Health Organisation re- ported 'novel 'viral pneumonias of unknown cause' in Wuhan, China.
The past two years have been extremely difficult for law students and candidate attorneys who commenced studies and articles at the height of the pandemic. Although technology, flexible working and online learning enabled high levels of productivity to be maintained, much else was lost. Many people experienced isolation and a lack of personal contact whether at university or in the workplace. While some enjoyed the novelty and convenience of working from home, by 2021 signs of stress were appearing, as the important rituals of work life were lost: lunches, coffee with colleagues, face-to-face meetings and the normal day-to-day human interaction that we all took for granted before March 2020.
1. Commit to the work – Being a lawyer is not quite as sensational as the average television series legal melodrama that grips mass audiences. While it probably does involve a good suit and many a late night, there is a lot about being a corporate lawyer that would not make for riveting television. In competition law, which is my area of specialisation, there is never a dull moment, particularly because the law is comparatively new and developing. However, the reality is that, although cases may often be challenging, interesting and precedent-setting, the everyday practise of law requires a bit of blood and sweat.
Recollections of a COVID-afflicted Candidate Attorney
As a lawyer who likes to write, I am occasionally asked for tips on how to write clearly. So the idea of writing a piece about clear writing has been on my radar for some time. I feel that we need to have a conversation around it, that we need to touch base.
At the heart of the Absa Legal Khulisa Programme is an initiative led by relation- ships. When Nkululeko Khumalo first took the role of Chief Operating Officer at Absa Group Legal, Black-owned law firms were the minority on the bank's legal client list. And changing this mattered to Absa.
The dawn of COVID-19 and the abrupt introduction of the nationwide lockdown shook the entire world. Most industries, especially the legal fraternity, were required to shapeshift from what they were to what they could be. I was in my second year of articles when lockdown was introduced, and I was already familiar with working from the office, in-person meetings and training sessions, as well as the ease of access to my principal and team members. I found this experience extremely beneficial, not only did it assist my learning journey and exposure to different legal matters, it also helped foster a collaborative working culture.
You're nearing the end of your LLB degree and about to embark on your journey as a candidate attorney – Congratulations! The legal profession is a noble one; it comes with many wonderful, exhilarating moments, and some stressful ones too.
So, you have decided you want to be a lawyer. That's what I thought too. When I registered to study for my BCom Law and subsequent LLB qualification, I did so with a degree of naivety, because I did not expect what was in store for me. This was partly due to the rigours and emotional rollercoaster that is practical vocational training – honestly, nothing and no-one can prepare you for the wild ride that is articles – also partly due to being unable to foresee these so called 'unprecedented times'. But fear not. With the right advice, mentorship and hard work, you will get through it all.
So there I was on my first day as a Candidate Legal Practitioner (CLP), convinced that everything I had studied in my law degree and Masters over the past five years would ensure smooth sailing in my new journey. This was my first incorrect assumption, as I soon discovered in the ensuing weeks and months.
The legal profession in South Africa offers a wide range of career possibilities. If you've chosen to complete your Practical Vocational Training to be admitted as a legal practitioner, it is important not to wait until your final year to secure articles. There is a high demand for positions, and students need to distinguish themselves throughout their degrees. Most law firms recruit students in the second year of their studies.
'Law is an art which requires long study and experience before a man can attain to the cognisance of it.' – Edward Coke