Current Demographics in Large Corporate Law Firms in South Africa

Publication Type:

Journal Article


African Journal of Legal Studies, Volume 7, p.587–594 (2014)




By contrast with the judges and the advocates, the issue of race and gender representivity in the attorneys segment of the legal profession generally and in large corporate law firms specifically has not received significant attention, in part due to the lack of accurate statistics and a thin research tradition. Addressing the gap, a 2013 survey investigated the demographics of legal professionals in large corporate law firms in South Africa. The chief finding of the survey is that South Africa’s major corporate law firms are still dominated by white men, especially in their upper echelons. Further, nearly half of the African women professionally employed in large corporate law firms (48.1%) are candidate attorneys, which is to say non-admitted legal professionals. These findings are consistent with the few earlier studies that have been conducted and indicate the need for further detailed research into the social dynamics of the African legal profession

Law and Personhood

The assembling of a new set of South African and global citizenships has taken on new urgency and a new plurality twenty years after the supposed advent of freedom. Categories make persons and persons make categories, as Jones and Dlamini have recently pointed out. In the South African constitutional text – where the phrase ‘categories of persons’ is written – race is but one of sixteen categories on the formal list. The Constitutional Court has added more.  Indeed, the effort of desegregating publics now takes place without the freshness of new symbols and with potentially stale institutions. In the public sphere, some responses to this era of citizenship reformation harken back to earlier times – either to times of forward-thinking, to times of social-making, or even to times of separating. Other responses rest in a consumptive present or appear as mere promised rhetorical bridges into the future. In this project WISER will examine the new questions that scholars in law, society and the humanities are posing themselves and others. What are the complex fashions in which bounded enclaves and social categories are fraying and unravelling or reforming? How, if at all, are persons remaking themselves as citizens? At the same time that these questions pose themselves, new fields of play are emerging with the changing audiences of the fashion shops and the sports terrains as well as the changing forms and formats of affluence and the new middle class. The very concept of a person as well as their categorical boundaries may shift with the movement of blood, organs, and self-awareness.

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