WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LAWYER, A LEGAL ADMINISTRATOR, AND AN ATTORNEY?
Jargon and other formal language abound in the legal profession. Those in the legal profession have a variety of professional titles, which can be confusing. Where can one begin to understand the distinctions between, say, ‘lawyers,’ ‘attorneys,’ ‘legal administrators,’ and ‘paralegals?’
We’ll ask you a few questions to help you figure it out:
WHAT EXACTLY IS:
The term “lawyer” is frequently used to describe a wide range of legal practitioners. A lawyer, in general, is somebody who has received legal training. A lawyer is someone who has completed law school and received an LLB (Bachelor of Laws) degree.
This means that you cannot represent a client in a court of law if you are merely a lawyer with no other credentials or professional certifications. Your legal education qualifies you to work as a legal consultant or policy advisor, or to provide legal advice.
To practice law, you must first complete your theoretical legal education (i.e. your LLB degree). Then, for a set period of time, you can perform your articles (a type of internship) with a practicing attorney. After you’ve completed your articles, you’ll need to take a Board Exam. If you pass, you can petition to be admitted as an attorney at the High Court.
Conveyancers, patent attorneys, litigators, and other specialties are available to attorneys. They have the ability to represent clients in court in specific circumstances. While all lawyers can be referred to as attorneys, not all attorneys are attorneys.
A specialist lawyer who represents clients in a court of law is known as an advocate. An advocate, unlike an attorney, does not deal directly with the client; instead, when the case calls for it, the attorney sends the client to an advocate. While attorneys can only represent clients in South Africa’s lower courts, advocates can appear on their behalf in the higher courts.
A member of the General Council of the Bar is required to practice law as an advocate.
A paralegal is a legal assistant that works in a law firm and is in charge of executing certain legal tasks on behalf of a lawyer or attorney. Paralegals are basically legal assistants.
A paralegal can assist with tasks such as:
Conducting client interviews
Legal document drafting
Filling out legal paperwork
A LEGAL ADMINISTRATOR?
Legal administrators work in a legal office setting and are in charge of the office’s administrative activities.
Ordinary office administrators are not the same as legal administrators. Because the profession needs working knowledge of legal practices, processes, and terminology, becoming a legal administrator necessitates specialized training. A legal administrator’s responsibilities may include:
preparing legal documents by typing
Keeping in touch with clients on administrative difficulties
ordering goods for the office
Taking a moment
Organizing the attorneys’ schedules
WHY DOES IT BECOME CONFUSING?
In actuality, as neatly as the various positions are laid out here, they may become somewhat perplexing. This is owing to the fact that the distinctions are frequently technical, and professional responsibilities can overlap in practice. A paralegal, for example, may be asked to handle legal administration duties as well.
Another cause of ambiguity is the fact that different countries have different rules for entering various professions, as well as distinct titles. In some countries, an attorney is known as a solicitor, whereas an advocate is known as a barrister. A paralegal is sometimes referred to as a law clerk, while a legal administrator is sometimes referred to as a legal secretary.
WHERE TO START YOUR CAREER
Not everyone can afford to go law school and put their lives on hold for four (or more) years. However, there is a different way to go about it.
A legal administrator can pursue an LLB degree part-time, giving him or her the added benefit of acquiring practical job experience while studying.
After working as an attorney for some time, an attorney may elect to pursue a career as an advocate and apply for membership to the Bar.
This means that if you want to be an attorney or advocate someday but can’t afford to go to university right away, you can still pursue your dream by working as a legal administrator and progressing from there.