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Legal degrees 101: What you need to know about studying law in 2023

Bronwyn Le Ann Batchelor, head of the law faculty at The Independent Institute of Education, says anyone interested in law as a career should ensure they do as well as possible in English in high school, as language is of crucial importance in the legal field.
Bronwyn Le Ann Batchelor, head of the law faculty at The Independent Institute of Education, says anyone interested in law as a career should ensure they do as well as possible in English in high school, as language is of crucial importance in the legal field.
Image: 123rf

As matrics consider their study options for next year, many are drawn to the idea of pursuing a legal career, based on how it’s portrayed in popular culture including movies, television and most recently, the Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard trial.

Others might be put off by these representations of the legal field, feeling that they don’t have the stomach for so much rough and tumble, especially if they are introverts.

But the legal field is extremely varied and have streams that will appeal to many people, regardless of their personality, and with infinitely more career possibilities than just trial law in court, an education expert says.

“Studying law opens many doors across the economy, as there is not one area of our lives that is not regulated by rules such as, for example, road rules, company rules, building laws, and so forth,” says Bronwyn Le Ann Batchelor, head of the law faculty at The Independent Institute of Education (IIE).

These include, for example:

  • BCom in Law — General management, legal advisor, corporate governance.
  • BA in Law — Legal advising, paralegal, alternate dispute resolution practitioner, mediator, corporate communications practitioner, legal researcher, court reporter, legal writer, online content manager, criminologist.
  • LLB — Career options in both the public or private sector. You can start your own practice, work for a small organisation (for profit or even an NGO) or even a large company.

But Batchelor warns prospective students to ensure they properly vet their institution before signing up, as an LLB is a professional qualification which means it is important to study at a credible registered institution that has complied with the legal requirements for accreditation of the qualification.

“When selecting where to study, it is important to consider the skills needed to become a lawyer or any form of legal professional. The institution where you study should prepare you for the world of work in as many ways as possible, and some universities unfortunately have not kept up adequately with modern workplace demands.”

When considering which qualification to go for, prospective students should be sure to understand the various streams, and what these will qualify them for post-graduation.

There are a few ways in which an LLB Degree can be obtained, but not all Higher Education providers offer the different stream options so this is also an important consideration

“There are a few ways in which an LLB Degree can be obtained, but not all Higher Education providers offer the different stream options so this is also an important consideration,” Batchelor says.

She says options broadly include the following:

  • Straight LLB (4 years)
  • A selection of one of the streams (a 3-year BA in Law or BCom in Law) followed by an LLB Degree (which can often then be completed in 2 years). 

The latter stream results in two qualifications in five years.  There are pros and cons to proceeding with either option, Batchelor says, adding that after completion of the BA in Law or BCom in Law students can elect to proceed with a different postgraduate qualification that is not necessarily law related.

“It is important to consider the criteria and requirements of both options as well as your long-term aspirations, for example if owning your own law firm is your goal, it may be beneficial to have some commercial background by doing a BCom in Law first followed by an LLB.

“Making the call on which stream to follow can be challenging, so if you need additional insight and support, speak to student advisors at a reputable higher education provider to help you,” Batchelor advises.

She says prospective students should also look beyond traditional law degrees, and see what contemporary degrees might better align with their aspirations. For instance, The IIE LLB degree offered on its IIE Varsity College and IIE MSA campuses has a number of elective modules which are unique and new to the legal profession, such as Integrative Law and Street Law.

You can still study law by way of completing a Higher Certificate like a Higher Certificate in Legal Studies and thereafter articulating to a Bachelor’s Degree

And the good news for matriculants who do not meet the necessary entry requirements, is that it doesn’t mean the end of the road for them if law was on their study radar, Batchelor says.

“You can still study law by way of completing a Higher Certificate like a Higher Certificate in Legal Studies and thereafter articulating to a Bachelor’s Degree.  The Higher Certificate will also empower you to work in a legal office environment after a year of study and upon qualification.”

Batchelor says anyone interested in Law as a career should ensure they do as well as possible in English in high school, as language is of crucial importance in the legal field. Not only to meet admission requirements, but because of their prospects of being successful in study and work. In general, most admission requirements for law degrees entail a Bachelor’s pass and a specific marks requirement for English. Some (but not all) also have requirements for Maths, Maths Literacy or Technical Maths marks. — The Independent Institute of Education


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