We hear legal jargon being splashed around on the television, in the newspapers, during daily conversations and we even find legalese on social media. Maybe you are interested to know more about the field of law because you have a case to bring before the court or maybe you are in your matric year dreaming about what your future could be like if you become a lawyer.
Were you ever a defendant in a law case? Has anyone ever made an allegation against you?
If you have answered, “No,” take a breath of fresh air. As overwhelming as the law may be, the law of a country is the law and certain legal matters need to be nipped in the bud before they escalate. Different courts handle different matters and you need to rope in the right type of lawyer to handle your case.
If you are a law student still trying to find your feet, perhaps do some more reading on the different types of lawyers as well.
Whoever you are and whatever your interest may be in the law field, this article is specifically meant for you. Superprof steps into all the courtrooms across South Africa to look at the types of law that govern our country.
Kinds of Law
You may already know the two main kinds of law: criminal law and civil law. In fact, the terms civil law and criminal law sort of define themselves.
When it comes to criminal law, criminal law deals with all types of offenses done against people or groups of people within society. The connotation that is given off by the word, “criminal,” is already indicative of the fact that this type of law deals with more severe crimes such as rape, drugs, and even murder.
If you are found guilty of committing a murder, you will most likely appear in High Court. Almost all issues are addressed in the Magistrate’s court and once a person has been found guilty of a charge like murder, the case gets escalated to High Court.
While we would hope that many South Africans never find themselves in the high court dealing with criminal offenses, the civil law cases that occur daily in South Africa cannot be under-exaggerated in any way.
From immigration to tort, all these issues are considered to be civil law issues.
Civil cases extend to workplace issues that can be brought into the courtrooms by employees or companies. When a labour issue escalates in the workplace, lawyers are often required to step in and address the issue.
Aside from the obvious, civil cases may also include:
- Insurance payouts – you want to settle an insurance payout with someone’s insurance company after a traffic accident has occurred.
- Breaches of contract- your landlord or employer has failed to live up to his/her formalised contractual agreement.
- Divorce and child custody – one parent seeks to take full custody of the child after the divorce
- Personal injury cases – personal injury cases need not only deal with actual physical injury but can also deal with mental injury caused by some form of injustice like issues of discrimination in the workplace
- traffic offenses- speeding tickets and any other vehicle-related offenses may be disputed and brought to the fore
- Negligence- you become sick after a contaminated food delivery so you may sue the restaurant owner because he or she is responsible for providing contaminated food.
- Copyright issues- when someone purposely steals your work and passes it off as his or her own work, this calls for a copyright issue to be brought to the fore
While civil cases often occur more frequently in South Africa, there have been barely any civil cases that caught the attention of the masses. It is always the criminal law cases that are a source of much suspense and intrigue for citizens in a country. To date one of the most talked-about court cases in South Africa was that of Oscar Pistorius. The court proceedings occurred in Pretoria’s High Court in front of a judge and a jury. Oscar had been on trial for allegedly murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp and had been accused of several other firearm-related charges.
Reeva Steenkamp, herself, had worked as a paralegal. Reeva was another enthusiastic law student who applied to the bar in 2011 and hoped to become an advocate before she reached 30 and although her life was cut short, Reeva still serves as an inspiration for all those female law students hoping to become advocates as well.
Are you keen on becoming an advocate one day? Perhaps you should speak to one of our Superprof tutors who will help you with all the tips and tricks to make your mark in the field of law.
While you may be quite familiar by now with civil and criminal law, the one major difference between the two kinds of law is that:
- In criminal law cases, the defendant(s) are answerable to charges made by the prosecution.
- With regards to civil law, the case deals with a plaintiff who is making an appeal to the court and the defendant who is being put on trial for what he or she was accused of by the plaintiff.
Now that we got the two different kinds of law out of the way, let us look at the branches of law.
If you are keen on becoming a paralegal, as the late Reeva Steenkamp was, perhaps look into the law scholarships offered in South Africa.
Branches of Law
“The law is the public conscience.” Thomas Hobbes
Imagine if Macbeth and Lady Macbeth from Shakespeare’s cursed play, “Macbeth” ended up being caught out for the crimes…
The law seeks to address all forms of wrongdoings in such a way that fairness in terms of the way the law is practiced needs to be considered.
The law as we know it is publicised, stable, clear, fair, and works to protect the fundamental rights of all of society. So what are the branches of law that exist?
The broad terms of criminal law and civil law can further be divided into:
- Common law
- Constitutional law
- Criminal law
- Property law
- Contract law
- Customary law
- Law of evidence
- Law of agency
- Law of delict
As per the branches of law, it is said that English law is followed for civil law, criminal law, and constitutional law cases while Roman law is adhered to when it comes to contract law and family law.
Let us look more in-depth into the fields of law.
In South Africa, civil ligation lawyers, bankruptcy lawyers, and defamation lawyers are most sought after. If you are considering pursuing law at a university level, perhaps read up on the different types of lawyers.
Fields of Law
Law of Delict
Tort law as it is commonly called in other countries or law of delict commonly includes torts like assault, and damage to personal property
While these offenses may be small, sometimes the dispute may call for some legal advice from a professional attorney. Usually, for many of the cases that fall under the law of delict, compensation in the form of monetary value is offered.
Family courts are in existence for a reason. Family disputes often arise and more often than not a divorce case is taken to the courts. Custody battles fall within the field of law called family law and so do adoption issues.
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When you sign a contract, you and all the parties involved have to abide by it.
In terms of the law, verbal and written contracts are treated as the same. However, many people still chose to draw up written signed contracts between parties as contract breaches are far harder to prove when it is accompanied by a verbal contract.
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When two parties are at loggerheads with each other, we consider these issues to be personal disputes.
Under the umbrella term, personal disputes are disputes in terms of bankruptcy and personal injury.
When an elder family member dies, usually inheritance disputes are brought into the courtroom. More often than not a family lawyer can provide some advice on how to settle inheritance issues before it gets dragged out into the courtroom.
Are you dreaming of being a hotshot lawyer working in a law firm? Maybe you are wanting to obtain a BA degree first with a focus on law and then branch out into an LLB degree. Perhaps you are keen on becoming well-versed in law so you can understand the legal jargon found in, “Suits” better. Irrespective of your reasoning, you can learn about advocacy by reading these articles and by using the internet to do further research.
If you feel the law is exciting, you may even decide to enroll at a law school.
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