Concerns about quality of LLB degree

August 1st, 2012

By Nomfundo Manyathi

A recent study conducted by financial services provider PPS has confirmed previously raised concerns that the current LLB degree does not sufficiently prepare graduates for a career in the legal profession.

However, the survey also indicated that optimism in the future of the profession over the next five years was viewed positively, with a confidence level of 77%.

A press release by PPS stated that the survey of almost 500 attorneys revealed that only 31% of them believed that the LLB adequately prepared prospective practitioners to enter and succeed in the attorneys’ profession. Further, the survey showed a confidence level of 50% in the standard of general education improving in the next five years.

Another finding was that only 44% of respondents believed that high ethical standards were maintained in the legal profession and that the profession was ‘ethical, professional and noble’. According to the press release, head of group marketing and stakeholder relations at PPS, Gerhard Joubert, said that only 44% of attorneys would encourage their children to enter their profession.

The survey also found that attorneys were concerned about their personal finances, with 59% confident that they had saved enough to retire, 8% believing tax incentives were enough to encourage South Africans to save and 66% holding the opinion that compulsory preservation was necessary to force South Africans to save.

Mr Joubert said that attorneys were positive about a number of economic factors, including that 64% had confidence in the economic outlook for South Africa over the next 12 months.

Other survey findings included:

  • 69% confidence in the ability to earn an income that met inflation.
  • 82% confidence that they would remain in South Africa in the future.
  • 44% confidence that crime rates in the country would improve over the next five years.
  • 43% confidence that unemployment in South Africa would improve over the next five years.

Mr Joubert said that the survey results reflected ‘real concerns among attorneys’, specifically about the quality of education and the preparation of students for working in the profession. He said that it was crucial that the concerns were addressed to ensure that future entrants were given the support and training needed to succeed in the profession. ‘The fact that this survey indicates a serious concern among attorneys that new entrants are not fully prepared to carry out their duties is a very significant finding and one that needs to be urgently addressed,’ he said.

Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) chief executive officer, Nic Swart, told De Rebus that the results of the survey confirmed ‘what the LSSA has been saying all along – that there is not complete satisfaction with the calibre of people emerging with an LLB degree’. Mr Swart added that the results gave the authorities further reason to look into the matter.

He said: ‘It is a complex issue; I do not think it will help to blame anyone, just as I also do not think that the solution lies with any particular party on its own.’ Mr Swart added that the matter needed to be looked at holistically, from the beginning stages of education. Currently, he said, some law graduates lacked very basic skills, which was neither good for the public nor for the graduates, who could not compete in the profession as they should.

Mr Swart said that the matter needed to be addressed at every level. He added: ‘As a profession, we must ask that the immediate stage before us, the academic stage, be interrogated. The universities must see to what extent, with their resources, the problem can be addressed.’

Mr Swart highlighted the fact that the situation could not be fully addressed at the academic level alone, but that it could be the starting point. He added that there were some university faculties already addressing the problem in the form of additional skills training and tutorials. He believed that, in some cases, it had become part of the requirements of the institution that students must show a particular skills level, he said.

Nomfundo Manyathi,

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2012 (Aug) DR 8.