From clerk to lawyer

2015-05-26 06:00
A beaming advocate Russel van Rooyen in front of the Cape Town High Court.

A beaming advocate Russel van Rooyen in front of the Cape Town High Court.

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His grandfather predicted that a young Athlone police clerk would one day become a lawyer. And recently that prediction came true when Russel van Rooyen was admitted as an advocate in the Cape High Court.

Van Rooyen (32), who hails from Sherwood Park in Manenberg, attended Wynberg Boys High and after he matriculated there were many careers that piqued his interest, but in the end his grandfather’s prediction and a cousin who was already a lawyer, won him over to law.

In 2006 he enrolled for his LLB degree at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) while working as a clerk at the Athlone police office.

Van Rooyen admits that studying while holding down a full-time job has been a big challenge. He credits his success to surrounding himself with “positive people” and having a strong support system.

“It was difficult working and studying part-time, but what kept me going was my firm belief in God and the support I received from my family.

“My grandfather knew I was stubborn, from a very young age already – and when I get told I can’t do it, I try even harder to prove that I can do it.”

In 2011 his determination paid off when he graduated from UWC with his LLB degree and in 2013 he hit the law books again when he did a six months’ legal practical training certificate at the University of Cape Town.

So other than the prediction of his grandfather, what is the allure of the law to Van Rooyen? He describes himself as a “champion for the underdog”, one who hates to see injustices done to his fellow man.

“Law is applicable everywhere and for me the aspect of protecting the human rights of others has always been an interesting one.”

Advocate Van Rooyen is considering his next step. “I would love to become part of the legal services in the police and who knows, I might even end up at the national prosecuting authority!”

Van Rooyen laughs when asked whether he would ever cross over to become a defence attorney.

He says there are lots of people who have been wrongfully accused and they too have the right to seek legal counsel – once again appealing to his sense of wronging the right.

The plight of the downtrodden is a strong motivation for Van Rooyen – and with the support of his loving family who knows where his sense of protecting the rights of the underdog will take this ambitious and just-minded legal eagle. . . After all, eagles are known for soaring to great heights


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