The main function of advocates is to act in the best interests of the party who employs them. Advocates act for the plaintiff or the defendant in civil cases or for the State in criminal cases.
Other duties include rendering of legal advice or opinions, drafting of contracts and other legal documents.
What am I going to do in this occupation?
Civil matters or cases
As legal representatives of either the plaintiff or defendant in a civil matter, in other words, where two people or two corporate bodies are involved in a dispute which involve legal rights, advocates will attempt to have the dispute settled in favour of their clients. Examples of such disputes are claims for damages, breaches of contracts, divorce cases, etc.
An attorney will refer a person or a corporate body to an advocate if the dispute is of such a nature that it requires the specific expertise of that advocate or when only the High Court has the jurisdiction to resolve the dispute. Advocates will investigate all the facts pertaining to the dispute and advise their clients as to what to do and what their chances of success are.
The advocate will first try to settle the dispute out of court, in other words to come to an agreement with the opposing party without going to court. Sometimes such agreements are also made orders of the court. If the dispute cannot be resolved out of court, it will be placed before a magistrate or judge who will listen to the testimony of both parties and their witnesses, the arguments of the advocates and then give judgement.
Advocates playa very important role by ensuring that all the evidence in their party’s favour is placed before the magistrate or judge and by testing the version of the opposing party through cross-examination.
If a person is accused of having committed a crime, an advocate can defend him/her in court. Even if the accused admits to committing the crime, the advocate will still assist the person in getting a fair sentence.
If advocates work for the state, they will prosecute the persons accused of committing a crime. The state advocates will call witnesses who will testify that the persons accused committed the crime and will test the version of the accused persons and their witnesses through cross-examination.
What kind of personality do I need? The legal professions are based on justice and therefore advocates must be honest at all times and of unquestionable integrity. A sound knowledge of general business practices coupled with a good measure of selfconfidence is also important. The ability to think analytically and to assess situations quickly are further attributes of a good prospective advocate. Public speaking forms part of the daily activities of an advocate and the ability to speak clearly and authoritatively is also an advantage.
Where can I work?
Advocates can work as state advocates in the Attorney-General’s office. Here the advocates prosecute serious cases such as murder, fraud and high treason. In this case there is no need to undergo the four months training or pass the Bar Examination.
Advocates can also work as legal advisors for big companies or as law advisors for the State.
Can I work for myself in this occupation?
An advocate can go into private practice or work as a law adviser.