Kids show interest in law

2014-03-25 00:00

HIGH school children are being asked by career councillors if they want to “be a Gerrie or a Barry” — and many are saying yes.

Experts have told The Witness the televised trial of Oscar Pistorius, and the coming Shrien Dewani trial, could have a major effect on kids’ aspirations to join the legal profession — despite the “unrealistic” image of wealth and glamour shown by defence advocate Barry Roux in particular.

In the United States, enrolment to law schools peaked in 1991 — following the highest ratings for the TV series LA Law — and again in 2010, after the early popularity of the Law and Order series. Enrolment in the U.S. has since tumbled by 24%, due to the recession, and much higher TV ratings for medical shows like House and Grey’s Anatomy.

Careers councillor Dr Chael Nel, a clinical psychologist, said the timing of the Pistorius trial added to its influence, since many Grade 12s and even Grade 11s were applying or pre-applying to universities this month. “We talk to kids about careers in terms of icons, so I ask them about the lawyers in the Pistorius case — many are interested in being like Gerrie Nel, especially,” said Nel. “I had a few asking about the case last week. Obviously, we point out that the career is generally much less glamorous, but I think the interest is a very good thing. We find the kids only watch the trial in bits and pieces before getting bored — their parents watch for hours and hours — but it is influencing some decisions.”

Deans of two law schools said they received “more than enough” applications — but that they wanted more high-achieving matriculants to consider law rather than medicine or actuarial science. Professor Karthy Govender, acting dean of the UKZN law school, said the Pistorius and Dewani cases would “definitely have an impact” on career choices.

“Ideally, we’d like young people to apply because they want to contribute to our constitutional democracy, but if it’s because they see the power of these legal figures on TV, that’s okay too,” said Govender. “Of course, the very high fees earned by Barry Roux might also influence some, though students should be aware that the career is really about discipline and effort.”

However, U.S. enrolment also dipped after the televised OJ Simpson trial — because the jousting attorneys portrayed immature pettiness, rather than glamour, according to law school dean Michael Rappaport, speaking to the LA Times.

Professor Pamela Schwikkard, dean of the law school at UCT, said that — despite media criticism of Roux’s emotive approach to cross examining — the Pistorius trial was “much more realistic” than fictional TV shows.

Schwikkard quipped that the quality of Greys Anatomy might lure away some potential lawyers, but that “at least the legal profession is ahead of actuarial science when it come to [TV shows].”

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.