The attorneys’ profession in numbers

September 1st, 2014

By Barbara Whittle

There are currently some 22 400 practising attorneys and 5 600 candidate attorneys.

Of the attorneys, 64% are white and 36% black (including African, coloured and Indian);

  • 37% are women; of which 13% are black women.

Graphic 3 reflects the figures from 2008 to 2014 and shows that, whereas white male attorney numbers have grown only marginally (and the total of white male attorneys has dropped 7% from 2008 to 2014), black male attorneys have shown 1% growth from 3 800 to 5 357. Women attorneys have shown a 3% growth generally.

Race statistics are not available for the attorneys’ profession prior to 2008.

Current candidate attorney figures show a different picture:

  • 56% are females
  • 59% are black.

Seventeen percent of candidate attorneys are white males, whereas 32% are black females. Black male and white female candidate attorneys are 27% and 24% respectively.





















Law firms

There are 10 959 law firms in South Africa – 62% of these are sole practitioners and 35% have between two and nine attorneys. Only some 30 firms have more than 50 attorneys.








Attorneys admitted

An average of 1 590 attorneys have been admitted to the profession per year over the past ten years. Last year, 57% of there were women and half of those admitted were black. Generally, for the past four years, more women have been admitted to the profession than men, and the number of black attorneys that are admitted varies between 47% and 50%.

Figures for 1998 show that, sixteen years ago, 63% of attorneys admitted that year were male and 71% were white.

So generally, over sixteen years there has been a 20% increase in female attorneys and a 21% increase in black attorneys admitted to the profession.
















Articles registered

The statutory provincial law societies have registered an average of 2 016 contracts of articles per year. The current year (between April 2013 and April this year) has seen the largest number of articles registered to date, being 2 595. The lowest figure was recorded between 2010 and 2011, when only 1 793 contracts of articles were registered.

Sixty percent of the articles registered in the current year were for black candidates and 51% were for female candidates. The number of articles for female candidates has been the lowest this year since 2008, whereas articles for black candidates have increased from 49% in 2008 to 60% this year.

















Statistics South Africa Mid-year population estimates – July 2014:

Statistics South Africa estimates the population of South Africa to be 54 million as at July 2014.

  • 51% of the population is female;
  • 49% male;
  • 91.5% is black (80,2% African; 8,8% is coloured and 2,5% is Indian); and
  • 8,4% is white.

The StatsSA Quarterly Labour Force Survey (April to June 2014) puts the working-age population at 34,3 million. The labour force stands at 20,2 million; of which 10,7 million are employed in the formal sector.

Compiled by Barbara Whittle, communication manager, Law Society of South Africa,

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2014 (Sept) DR 20.