Candidate legal practitioner helps others like him find employment

May 25th, 2022
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Candidate legal practitioner, Juniours Moremi, has started an organisation called Employ a Lawyer (EAL), which is an organisation and initiative that seeks to help students and unemployed law graduates secure employment (such as, articles of clerkship, professional positions, graduate programmes, and internships). The organisation also provides information, as well as education and the necessary resources to navigate candidate legal practitioners through their journey to becoming legal professionals. De Rebus News Reporter, Kgomotso Ramotsho, interviewed Mr Moremi to find out more about EAL.

Candidate legal practitioner, Juniours Moremi, has started an organisation called Employ a Lawyer, which is an organisation and initiative that seeks to help students and unemployed law graduates secure employment.

 

Kgomotso Ramotsho (KR): How did EAL start?

Juniours Moremi (JR): EAL started off when I created a WhatsApp group that was intended to share vacancies and job opportunities across the Gauteng and Limpopo provinces. The group attracted a number of people, to a point where we had 14 WhatsApp groups. Due to the administration of sending all these vacancies to several groups, I thought it best to have a uniform platform where it would be easier to manage traffic and posting, so I created social media pages on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for EAL and from there everything changed.

 

KR: How does it work, what are the requirements and who is meant to assist?

JM: We assist students and graduates by posting vacancies and job opportunities (including bursary opportunities) in the legal field daily. We also have live sessions where we invite guests to Instagram Live to answer questions about their experiences in the legal profession. We also have a mentorship programme where we take in students on a need-to-need basis (annually) and we guide them through their academics by providing mentorship, career advice, academic counselling and we also take them on excursions to clear their minds when their academics becomes stressful.

We also have a job shadowing programme where we have partnered up with various advocates and attorneys in practice, so we select and place a number of students across the country and have them shadow legal practitioners and do vacation work under these various legal practitioners for practical experience and exposure. We also engage with students and graduates on questions and answers every week that they may have regarding the legal profession or life after graduating from their studies. We also engage with students on legal quizzes and educational posts regarding anything general in the legal profession.

We do not have any requirements to being a part of our community. We are an open organisation or initiative that welcomes anyone within the legal space to put in what they have or come get out of it what they need. We are open to discussions and questions and are willing to assist anyone we can within our reach and abilities.

 

KR: When did it start and how many people have been able to succeed or get help through the concept?

JM: Officially, EAL was started in July 2020 and in less than two years several people have benefited from it, including –

  • 40 law (BA Law and LLB) students who are part of our mentorship programme (of which five are Members of the Golden Key International Honour Society);
  • 16 law students who were placed for vacation work or job shadowing;
  • two law students who received bursaries to fund their studies;
  • 28 law graduates who managed to secure employment; and
  • countless others who learned more about what they want to do with their careers on a daily basis.

 

KR: Can you briefly tell us about some of the challenges you have identified that led to this concept being born?

JM: When you are a student, there is only a certain number of things that your university can do for you, and the rest is up to you to figure out. A lot of us have so many questions and challenges that our universities, societies or associations fail to answer or assist with. This is where, we as EAL, saw a gap or flaw.

Career fairs were not enough to provide an employment platform because not all firms or companies visit campuses. Student societies were not enough to give us insights on what to expect because they too were led by students who wanted to know more about the legal profession. Associations did not provide for placements in law firms and companies to better our practical exposure to the legal practice. Universities had mentorship programmes but were solely focused on academics and not real life or the full career preparation spectrum. That is where EAL stepped in to fill those grey areas and build a bridge between university and the legal profession. This not only made the transmission easier but also gave students and graduates a platform to get clarity on things that their lecturers or fellow students could not help with.

 

KR: What do you think can be done to address the issue of candidate legal practitioners and new legal practitioners, getting articles or gaining employment?

JM: Unemployment is nothing new to us as a country. It has been with us for the longest time, but it seems to be something we normalise these days because of statistics. We all sit around and think there is nothing we can do because it is part of life. The legal profession is one that knows this very well, we have about 31 000 legal practitioners (attorneys) in South Africa, and over 12 000 law firms, with approximately 7 000 candidate legal practitioners in the system.

The number of graduates coming out of universities every year enlarges the unemployment pool due to a lack of opportunities for candidate legal practitioners and an increase in admitted legal practitioners that are unemployed due to a lack of law firm retainment. I think to address this issue, the relevant legal authorities must provide, for not just the compulsory candidate legal practitioners intake, but also the implementation of the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority (SASSETA) programme more efficiently. Law firms together with graduates and students must be educated of the availability of the funding that SASSETA provides for candidate legal practitioners.

There could be programmes that are put in place at university level to educate students about the various legal opportunities or ventures that one can do with their LLB degree once they graduate. An alternative route to getting admitted as a legal practitioner should be put in place other than serving articles. This could make the search or fight to secure articles a struggle less spoken about. How about accrediting more institutions, such as banks and non-governmental organisations, etcetera, to offer practical vocational training, as well and suffice as equivalent to the articles period or training? Because as it stands, the number of law firms or legal clinics are not enough to cater for the number of unemployed graduates who want to become legal practitioners one day.

The issue of admitted legal practitioners, on the other hand is one that needs to be addressed on a retainment level. Yes, serving articles is on a contract basis, but a certain rate of retainment must be exercised and expected from all law firms by the authorities. This is to show that not only do law firms train, but they also empower legal practitioners to stay in their firms and continue generating money for the firm and furthering their own careers. Alternatively, the relevant legal authorities can make it easier for admitted legal practitioners to open their own law firms. This is by making the fees more affordable, having fewer complex processes, and alternative requirements other than those that require articles and admission in the process.

 

KR: What can we expect from your organisation in future?

JM: There is so much we want to do but are rather restricted by a lack of partnerships, sponsorships, funding, and resources. We would like to see our organisation grow in all communities. We would like to have a bigger and much larger influence in campuses and surrounding communities. This includes –

  • growing our mentorship programme to have more mentees and more mentors involved;
  • having more guests in higher influence in the legal profession on Instagram Live;
  • having functions in our name like seminars, webinars, career fairs, charity drives, and more excursions; and
  • launching a website in the near future and obtaining our own offices to make access to us even easier.

 

Mr Moremi hails from a small township called Ga-Kgapane, just outside Tzaneen in the Limpopo Province. He holds a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the University of Limpopo. He also holds an Advanced Company Law Certificate from the University of Witwatersrand. He is currently a candidate legal practitioner at Tugendhaft Wapnick Banchetti and Partners in Johannesburg.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.

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