How Much do Lawyers Make in South Africa? | Salary Insights

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The amount lawyers in South Africa earn is not formally regulated beyond the provisions of the Legal Practice Act, 28 of 2014, which governs their ethical conduct, monetary transactions, and fee handling. Understanding lawyer salaries in South Africa is crucial for those considering a career in law or currently practicing.

What is a Lawyer?

A lawyer is basically almost anyone who operates in the legal profession. Included in this definition is a legal professional who has a Bachelor of Laws (LLB degree) and who is practising law.  Advocates and attorneys are also lawyers. However, a lawyer is not necessarily an advocate or attorney (Van der Merwe, 2022).

The main distinction that has to be made is that there are two main career paths available to lawyers that make them “beginner lawyers’’, namely the route of being either an attorney or an advocate.

Factors Influencing Lawyer Salaries in South Africa

Lawyer salaries in South Africa are influenced by several factors:

  • Sector: Salaries vary depending on whether lawyers work in the private or public sector.
  • Employment Type: Self-employed lawyers may have different earnings compared to those employed by a firm or company.
  • Firm Size: The size and prestige of the law firm or employer can significantly impact salaries.
  • Industry Trends: Current remuneration trends in the legal industry also play a role in determining lawyer salaries.

How much do Lawyers make in South Africa?

This table provides a clear breakdown of average annual salary ranges for lawyers in South Africa, categorized by career level.

Category Position Annual Salary Range (ZAR)
Entry-level Lawyers Beginner Lawyers R500,000 – R700,000
Mid-level Lawyers Associates R650,000 – R850,000
Senior Associates R850,000 – R1,400,000
Senior Lawyers Partners R1,400,000 – R2,200,000
Senior Partners R2,000,000 – R3,500,000

Attorneys must have LLB degrees

To qualify as an attorney, you need to have an LLB degree, have completed two years of articles of clerkship, and be admitted as an attorney by the High Court of South Africa.  

Candidate attorneys usually earn a low salary during their two years of articles (Van der Merwe, 2022).

An important part of becoming an attorney is to write the four attorneys’ admission exams:

  • Paper 1: Court Procedures
  • Paper 2: Administration of Estates
  • Paper 3: Attorney’s Practice (Ethics)
  • Paper 4: Accounting

Advocates must also have an LLB degree

Advocates, who must also hold LLB degrees, are experts in presenting and arguing cases in court.  They are generally self-employed and are usually, but not necessarily, members of the bar council in their area.

After joining the bar, advocates can join an advocate group that generally has office space, a library and a receptionist, and rent an office in their quarters.

Advocates who are doing pupillage are not paid at all during the 12 months of this apprenticeship.

Bachelor of Laws

The Legal Practice Council  has widened the number of bar councils and voluntary lawyers’ associations that can provide recognised training to aspiring advocates. They are:

  • Law Society of South Africa 
  • Black Lawyers Association 
  • General Council of the Bar and its bars
  • National Forum of Advocates
  • National Association of Democratic Lawyers
  • Pan African Bar Association of South Africa
  • National Bar Council of South Africa 

During training, income varies from none in the case of advocates to a stipend or a salary in the case of candidate attorneys.

LLB Degree Holder Salaries

The latest reliable breakdown of salaries for entry-level LLB degree holders can be found in the Robert Walters Annual Salary Survey for 2022.

Category Position Annual Salary Range (ZAR)
Commerce and Industry General Counsel R1,000,000 – R3,500,000
Junior Counsel R500,000 – R700,000
Legal Counsel R750,000 – R950,000
Senior Legal Counsel R1,000,000 – R1,400,000
Financial Services General Counsel R2,300,000 – R3,500,000
Junior Counsel R400,000 – R650,000
Legal Counsel R650,000 – R950,000
Senior Legal Counsel R900,000 – R1,400,000

(Robert Walters Annual Salary Survey, 2022)

Geographic Differences Influencing Lawyer Salaries

Salaries can vary significantly based on geographic location, with higher salaries typically found in major cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban compared to rural areas.

Law Firm vs. In-house Counsel

Category Description
Law Firm Associates and partners in private practice typically have higher earning potential, especially in large, prestigious firms.
In-house Counsel Salaries can also be competitive, particularly in sectors such as financial services and large corporations.

Gender Pay Gap in the Legal Profession

There may be salary differences between male and female lawyers, reflecting a broader gender pay gap in the profession. Efforts are being made to address this issue and promote equality in remuneration.


Understanding the various factors that influence lawyer salaries in South Africa is essential for aspiring legal professionals. While earnings can vary widely based on several factors, the legal profession remains a lucrative and rewarding career path.

How much do lawyers make in South Africa? – FAQ’s

What factors influence lawyer salaries in South Africa?

Lawyer salaries are influenced by factors such as sector (private vs. public), employment type (self-employed vs. employed), firm size, and industry trends.

How much do entry-level lawyers earn in South Africa?

Entry-level lawyers, known as beginner lawyers, typically earn between R500,000 to R700,000 annually.

What are the salary ranges for mid-level lawyers in South Africa?

Mid-level lawyers, such as associates, earn between R650,000 to R850,000 per year, while senior associates earn R850,000 to R1,400,000 annually.

How much can senior lawyers, like partners, expect to earn in South Africa?

Senior lawyers, including partners, earn higher salaries ranging from R1,400,000 to R3,500,000 per year, depending on their experience and firm size.

What are the educational requirements to become an attorney in South Africa?

To qualify as an attorney, one must hold an LLB degree, complete two years of articles of clerkship, and pass four admission exams covering various legal topics.

What qualifications are necessary for becoming an advocate in South Africa?

Advocates also need an LLB degree and must complete pupillage, a 12-month apprenticeship. They are usually self-employed and members of a bar council.

What is the salary range for LLB degree holders in commerce and industry sectors in South Africa?

LLB degree holders working as general counsels in commerce and industry can earn between R1,000,000 to R3,500,000 annually, with varying salaries for junior and senior roles.

How do geographic differences affect lawyer salaries in South Africa?

Salaries can vary significantly by location, with higher earnings typically found in major cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban compared to rural areas.

What are the salary prospects like for lawyers working in law firms versus in-house counsel positions?

Lawyers in private practice at law firms often have higher earning potential, especially in prestigious firms, while in-house counsel salaries remain competitive, particularly in sectors like financial services.

Is there a gender pay gap in the legal profession in South Africa?

Yes, there may be disparities in salaries between male and female lawyers, reflecting broader gender pay gap issues in the profession that are actively being addressed.

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Advocate Kevin Malunga LLM, LLB Academic Head: Bachelor of Laws Regenesys Business School

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