Q. What is the difference between an advocate, a lawyer and an attorney?
A. Anyone who has studied law could be referred to as a lawyer. In most peoples mind's, in S A, the terms lawyer and attorney are synonymous. An advocate has to have an LLB degree and is a "court specialist". He cannot be approached directly by a member of the public. An attorney may upon the instructions of his client brief an advocate. An advocate wears a gown in the high court and a suit in the Magistrates court. An attorney wears a gown in both? Until recently an attorney could not appear in the High court. Suitably qualified attorneys are now permitted to appear.
Q. How can a lawyer defend someone he knows is guilty?
A. In our law, as in most civilised countries an accused is presumed innocent until found guilty. It is up to the state to prove all the elements of the crime. Every accused is entitled to representation. The lawyer can use the law to get the client off. He may not lie on behalf of his client or assist him to distort the facts. Think of this in terms of – it is better to get nine guilty people off than have one innocent person found guilty!
Q. What is the difference between a Judge and a Magistrate?
A. A Magistrate presides in the Magistrates court. This courts jurisdiction is limited. A Judge presides in The High court and can set aside Magistrates decisions. This courts jurisdiction is virtually unlimited. In court the Judge is addressed as "mlord/mlady" or "your lordship/ladyship" and a Magistrate as "your worship" or "sir/madam". Regional court Magistrates can now preside over divorce matters.
Q. Am I allowed to conduct my own case in court?
A. Yes you are but you should be very careful and make very sure that you study the rules of court and understand them. You will also have to understand the law as it pertains to your case. Many people have come unstuck. It has then ended up costing them more for an attorney to rescue them than it would have had they used an attorney in the first instance.
Q. My car has broken down. It wont start.
A. Sorry can't help, you will have to take it to a garage. If they mess up – then we can help.
Q. What do I do if I can’t afford a lawyer?
A. Provided that you fall within their means test you may be granted assistance by the Legal Aid Board, a state funded organisation. Legalwise is a very reputable private organisation, offering legal expenses insurance. For a very low amount per month you will be covered for most things. If the amount or value of a thing in dispute is R12000.00 or less you can conduct your own case in the Small Claims Court. Neither party is allowed to have legal representation here.
Q. Why do I need a lawyer to draw my agreements. I can do it myself.
A. You can but that is how we make money. Fixing the problem at great expense to you. You should run it by a lawyer before signing. This could save a lot of money in the long run.
Q. Can I do my own divorce.
A. Lawyers don't like to tell you this, but yes you can. You can buy a book that tells you how. Stay away from lawyers and friends, work it out between yourselves, then if worried, run it by a lawyer. Having said that, if there are children involved or a large estate, consult your lawyer. Divorce has become a money making industry for lawyers, dont allow them to create acrimony and expense. The average "amicable" divorce should cost no more than about R9000.00 to R14000.00 ( if you use lawyers). Sadly it is often the lawyers that cause the costs to increase.
Q. Once I have instructed a lawyer am I stuck with him/her? Even if I dont feel confident for whatever reason?
A. No not at all you are free to move to any lawyer that you feel ok with, don't be intimidated.
Q. Why cant lawyers give a simple answer to a question without the "if this, but that" type response.
A. Quite simply because law is not a science, all facts and factors need to be weighed up. The client obviously has a very subjective approach to the problem, and does not understand the law and the legal system. (To be frank, sometimes we don't either). The lawyer should be aware of this and take the time to explain.
Q. Can I send questions to your site without fear that I am going to be charged a fee for a response.
A. Of course you can. Most of the time we will respond even after hours if possible .
Q. A most unusual question was asked by a lady from the U.K. Do we wear gowns at work all the time and what colour are they.
A. We only wear gowns at court unless we have worked through the night and havn't had time to change to more suitable attire, in which case we appear at work in our night gowns. The court gowns are black. Don't ask us why, we have no idea.
Q. What is the difference between a "stop order" and a "debit order".
A. A stop order operates as an authority given by you to your bank to debit your account each month to pay a third party a determined sum of money. This is easy to stop and quite safe as you are in control. A debit order operates as an authority by you to allow a third party to access your bank account and take money out of it. Difficult to stop as you have to tell that third party to stop taking your money…the only other way is to each month instruct your bank not to pay.
Q. Can Lawyers be trusted.
A. Most Politicians are Lawyers.
Q. Do lawyers speak latin.
A. Nobody speaks latin. Lawyers like to drop the odd word or phrase cos it sounds posh and ever so learned.