The practising legal professions are divided into two branches, namely attorneys and advocates. An attorney is the person with whom one first makes contact when seeking legal advice. Advocates have specialised expertise in various areas of the law, especially in the presentation of cases in court.
Attorneys give advice to clients regarding their rights and obligations on matters relating to the law. They serve a variety of clients including business organizations, local authorities, the government and individuals.
Advocates are primarily experts in the art of presenting and arguing cases in court. Whereas in the past, only advocates were permitted to present cases (appear) in the higher courts and in the Appeal Court in Bloemfontein, attorneys were granted right of appearance in the high and constitutional courts as from 1 November 1995. (Right of Appearance in Court Act 62 of 1995).
Attorneys have different areas of specialisation, however, most are involved with basic activities relating to the representation of clients both in civil and criminal cases. In civil cases an attorney may assist a client with contracts, leases, wills and trusts. In criminal cases an attorney may act on behalf of a client charged with a criminal offence. In every case an attorney needs to consult the client to determine the nature of the problem and to give advice.
Areas of specialisation may include the following:
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