It’s not glamour and suits, but a career in law can open many doors
Amanda Sityana, director of East London legal firm Sityana Brittain, has one golden rule for anyone contemplating a career in law.
“Forget about what you have seen on TV where glamorous lawyers persuade stubborn juries of their client’s innocence.
“A law career is all about long hours, extensive research and volumes of reading. And if that doesn’t scare a prospective lawyer, it is a wonderful career.”
She said anyone wanting to decide whether a career in law was for them, should first speak to a lawyer they know or approach a firm, preferably a small one that covers it all, and ask for a holiday job.
“Work-shadowing is a good way of building knowledge, but it may be difficult to get the opportunity.”
There was a strict rule that every client that came through the door had to leave with either a solution or a least have the comfort that there was a legal path to a solution
South Africa has 27,223 practising attorneys (black 12,084, white 12,084) and 6,669 candidate attorneys (black 4,199, white 2,478).
Sityana’s route into the profession started after she matriculated at Hudson Park in East London, and then studied law at Rhodes University.
In 2010, degree in hand, she was articled to East London firm Bate Chubb & Dickson.
Once she completed her trainee period, she joined LegalWise, which offers clients legal services — on a membership basis for a monthly fee — and immediate access to a bank of lawyers.
“The job was very rewarding. The services were diverse, forcing one to broaden one’s legal knowledge.
“There was a strict rule that every client that came through the door had to leave with either a solution or a least have the comfort that there was a legal path to a solution.”
After leaving LegalWise, she spent three years with AA Ndibi, before breaking away and setting up Sityana Brittain with fellow attorney Vicky Brittain.
As with Sityana, Brittain, who matriculated at Queenstown Girls High School, also studied at Rhodes and later at University of Free State.
Sityana said law had always been her first career choice, though she enjoyed music and history at school.
“I played the clarinet and sang.
“I no longer play an instrument but have continued singing, mainly in church, but Covid-19 has put a temporary stop to that.”
Her advice to graduates who have not yet decided on a specific aspect of law that they would like to focus on is to try get articled into a small firm that covered a broad scope including wills, conveyancing, debt collection, administering estates, general litigation, matrimonial affairs and commercial contracts.
“Two years of being exposed to all the aspects that the law offers will give a new attorney a perfect grounding before moving on to something that really interests them.”
As part of her “give it back” community service, Sityana worked at Lebona Love Reading Club, where she taught reading to children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and at Child Welfare, where she assisted full-time staff.
She said her legal background enabled her to assist in two areas that she had a passion to change; women’s rights and women and child abuse.
A law degree can create a path into many careers aside from “pure” law.
Many lawyers also study for a B.Comm, giving them access to commerce.
Some engineers and economists are qualified lawyers, as are many engineers.
Regulatory authorities need lawyers, working alongside government departments.
Sityana said a law degree was a golden key that could unlock many exciting careers.
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