Attorney at law or attorney-at-law, usually abbreviated in everyday speech to attorney, is the preferred term for a practising lawyer in certain jurisdictions, including South Africa (for certain lawyers), Sri Lanka, and the United States. The term has its roots in the verb to attorn, meaning to transfer one’s rights and obligations to another.
In South Africa, there are two main branches of legal practitioner: attorneys, who do legal work of all kinds, and advocates, who are specialists litigators. Attorneys may form professional firms and practice in partnerships, ranging in size to the “Big Five” law firms. The profession is regulated by the Attorneys Act, 1979 (Act No. 53 of 1979). There are currently around 21400 attorneys and 5000 candidate attorneys in South Africa, each of which are represented by the LSSA (Law Society of South Africa)
For admission as an attorney, the academic qualification required is an LLB from a South African university; see Bachelor of Laws: South Africa; Legal education in South Africa. (Historically, the B.Proc. degree was also offered.) One then serves “articles” as a candidate attorney with a practicing attorney for a period specified according to the qualification of the candidate (generally two years if an appropriate legal degree has been obtained); the length of articles may be reduced by attending a practical legal training course or performing community service. The candidate must also write a “board exam” set by the relevant provincial Law Society
Attorneys may additionally qualify as Notaries and Conveyancers, via the Conveyancing and Notarial Practice Examinations; those with technical or scientific training may further qualify as patent attorneys – see Patent attorney: South Africa.
Coming soon – a directory of Attorneys at Law in South Africa