I read an article the other day where it seems that common sense in some way came back to the learned professors regarding the value of a LLB law degree. Let me explain that until about 15 years ago, before some long haired liberals decided to meddle with the legal profession, the LLB law degree was seen as the beginning and end of your academic legal qualifications. Anything more like a LLM of LLD and you have geek / nerd tendencies to be frowned upon by your mates and anything less made it impossible for you to choose between the attorneys or the advocate's profession since you must have a LLB degree to become an advocate.
Of course, as I frequently say in my books, unless you also pass your bar exam and practise law for a few years, you are not really up to the task even though you may be entitled to the title of "advocate" because of your LLB degree. At one stage it was rated so highly that it was a post graduate program / degree and from experience I can tell you - there was a superlative difference between a first / under graduate degree like B Iuris, B Proc or BA Law and the LLB program. Once you enter the LLB program the professors simply expected a lot more from you. Hence many of us fell on the way side - from my own class only 44 graduated out of the 443 who started 5 years earlier. Of those 44 I believe less than 5 are still in private practise so it was indeed a big deal to survive. We were justly proud of our LLB qualification for it opened the law profession. Some of us became advocates. Others became attorneys and others never passed the bar exams.
Then the wise ones changed LLB to become a first degree and I warned of the consequences in my book Tricks of Trade - Memories of a Rogue Lawyer of having a generation of new lawyers on the loose with less than adequate academic pretensions. And I get the idea of opening the profession for everyone but remember - law is a serious business and affects absolutely everything you do in life. You fill your car with petrol (gas for my American readers) and yes, a contract came into being even if not reduced to paper. You decide that your date is going so well that you may move to another level (see my book The Circle of Life) and the law is watching you all the time - even in the bedroom! Hence we can safely say, lawyers must be thoroughly tested before they are let loose on you, the innocent public.
I also said and will always say that law is not rocket science but you really really need a good academic background or you will be even more lost than usual. Strange that those politicians...the long haired liberals as I call them...have no such test except to see how much rubbish they can sell at election time? I wonder why that is. After all, almost every problem in life is attributed to their clever way of thinking...as is the subject we speak of today and almost any other problem you care to mention when you think about it.
So I am glad to read that sanity is returning and that Wits University at least is bringing back the LLB program to where it should be - a post graduate 3 year course. And I hope the rest will follow them but I must ask...why did they feel the need to gamble with the one profession that is of cardinal importance to the man on the street? Was all this necessary and what of the thousands of first degree LLB men and women who now will feel marginalised? The lesson is as old as the mountains - if something is not broken - leave it alone!
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a practicing commercial law attorney for eight years. He also wrote several books on business, law, counter terrorism and security issues. He is a widower and lives in Bloemfontein, South Africa.