This seasons final interview is Ilza Le Minnie! She has worked as a criminal defence lawyer and her passion for restorative justice has led to the start a foundation to rehabilitate offenders. I met her a year ago as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship and I was honestly intimated by her.  She’s tall, vocal and no nonsense when you meet her. Yet, in actuality she is kind, gentle, friendly and the life of the party.

We all have our views on criminals and crime, this was very eye opening for me and a fantastic way to end this season on interviews!

Tell Us


Your qualifications:

  I have a LLB from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and I have been employed at Rossouw & Du Plessis a boutique law firm in Malmesbury, Cape Town since January 2018. I was previously employed with Legal Aid South Africa 2012 to 2017.

Your practice areas:
I practiced mainly in criminal law from 2012 to 2015.  I also work in civil litigation including divorces, civil claims, children’s court, family court and all other fields of litigation.

The reaction when people find out you are a lawyer:

Many people are excited and surprised because I look so young!  A lot of young people are impressed and immediately want to connect with me about my journey.

A major move in the last 5 years:

Last year I was selected as a Mandela Washington Fellow and attended the fellowship at Texas Tech University in Lubbock Texas which really opened doors for me. When I returned from the fellowship I started my own foundation “The Le Minnie Foundation” which will be the blanket organization for different projects. I left my job at Legal Aid SA to enable me to have more time to focus on my other projects.

Our first two projects are underway, firstly “Project Restore”which uses agricultural training and skills development to rehabilitate offenders. The second project is  “I am Coloured”, this is a documentary about coloured people in a 2018 South Africa especially in relation to the current land issues.

Why you chose to study law:

My mother was a prison warden and I got to spend a lot of time around inmates. I got to know them as people and not has their crimes and it frustrated me that so many were just sent to jail whereas there was actually a problem with a more social aspect that needs to be addressed, however those without money do not have anyone to speak for them. My mother always went the extra mile to try and help the inmates and then I decided I would study law and stop them from going to jail in the first place.

Something you wish you could change about legal practice:
There needs to be a larger focus on restorative justice and rehabilitation in our criminal justice system and not just a system of punishment. There is so much paperwork –  its definitely time we go digital!

What apps do you use to increase productivity OR apps you have to turn off to increase productivity: 

There is a new legal software called HotDocs which is very helpful in drafting and I would be lost without my calendar and email.

 How do you network:
Well I am learning to play golf for the purpose of  networking, however I have found that having great relationships with the court staff and other attorneys, presiding officers and court role players have been the most beneficial. Most of my new clients have seen me in court or been referred by a client.

Whats your “Go-To” beauty staple and closet item:
Victoria Secret Perfume – Amber (I work in the court holding cells a lot and this provides a unique escape from the unsanitary conditions I find myself in).

Describe your Werk style:

 I have a very unique style! I have completely moved away from the black, grey and blue for court and try to incorporate colours, patterns and textures into my usually boring court attire. I also try wearing more clothes that send a strong feminine message rather than attempt to interpret the masculine attire.

A time you made a mistake at work and how you bounced back:

 I once put an accused into the witness box without fully preparing him and he was only asked one question by the prosecutor and confessed to the offence… this was after months of trial. I completely forgot to tell the client not to answer any self-incriminating questions. That has never happened again.

A physical or spiritual practice you have adopted:
I have learned to forgive. I work with what most would describe as the worst people on earth. The rapists, murderers and drug dealers of society and I have learned to not judge them and to forgive those who condemn them as if they are nothing.

If not law, what would you be doing:
Teaching English Literature – somewhere beautiful oh and writing poetry.

Bad recommendations or assumptions about law that you often hear:
People often assume that lawyers lie and manipulate the truth – that is so untrue as the cost of not being honest in the legal profession is too costly for an attorney. You could so easily be removed from the attorneys roll, which no-one want to do.

Can you share something you are struggling with right now:
I took a matter from a colleague which was way beyond my experience and information that lead to me having months of extra research and work. I eventually got the client acquitted, the time management skills and research techniques that taught me are invaluable. I also value all of the vacations I take, they make me want to work harder so I can take more vacations.

Major goal for the next 5 years:

I am going to have my own practice.

Quote you live your life by:

 The true success of a servant leader is when you no longer see her own interests in her work, rather that of those she leads. – me 2017

Where can people find you say hi: 

LinkedIn:  Ilza Le Minnie

Instagram: @princess_ilza

Twitter: @ilza_law

I am so excited about this weeks Werk Crush Wednesday because we met at vacation work in 2009 and went on to do articles together and get admitted in the same year. Its always wonderful to grow with your colleagues. Thethe specialises in  Construction and Engineering as well as General Commercial Litigation and was recognised by Who’s Who Legal for her work in Litigation.

If Suits was still filming another season,  I would recommend Thethe to fill in for Duchess Megan Markle, because she is as stylish as her!


Tell us: 

Your qualifications

Bachelor of Laws (LLB) University of the Witwatersrand;

Admitted Attorney of the High Court of South Africa (5 years);

Federation Internationale des Iingenieurs Conselis standard form construction contracts (University of Pretoria Continuing Education);

NEC Engineering & Construction Contract 3 Black Book (Binnington Copeland & Associates (Pty) Ltd now HKA Global); and

Engineering & Construction Contracts (Law Society of Society of South Africa)

Accreditations – Who’s Who Legal, South Africa (Litigation)

Your practice areas:

International and local arbitrations

Construction and Engineering

General commercial litigation

The reaction when people find out you are a lawyer:

People are generally shocked because I apparently look so young that they can’t imagine me in a “confrontational” role. Most of them go on tell me they will call me if they ever get arrested which is bizarre. I find that there is a lot of misconception about what lawyers do and most people assume that all we do is defend criminals or the fictional depiction of lawyers they see on television shows.

A major move in the last 5 years:

Being seconded to our London Office’s Disputes Team for 3 months. The amount of personal growth that I went through in those 3 months changed my life. I came back a different person.

Why you chose to study law:

Law was actually my second or third choice because becoming an accountant was the “in thing” at the time. There is so much about what being a lawyer is that resonates with who I am though, that I now know I could never have gone into any other profession. I am a natural problem solver (those closest to me will attest to this) and as a child I read everything under the sun which prepared me from an early age to read large volumes of documents. I love analysing everything, I’m the person who pauses Game of Thrones every 5 minutes to analyse what is happening and debating where the storyline is going and giving advice on what the best move would be.

Something you wish you could change about legal practice:

Billable Hours!

How do you network:

Very informally. I try to attend as many sector specific seminars and functions as possible. I am active on LinkedIn and I am working on my social networking skills.

Whats your “Go-To” beauty staple and closet item?: 

Mascara (Clinique High Impact Mascara) and eyeliner (MAC). I started wearing foundation in my final year of university and I used foundation and bronzer full time during articles, which I don’t do anymore. I prefer to let my skin to breathe now and I just don’t have the time to apply makeup every morning.

Closet item(s) is a good pair of black pointy heels and black high waist trousers.

When stressed or overwhelmed, what do you do to refocus:

Lately I find that going for a run or walk helps a lot with releasing pent up stress. If I am working from home and I can take a power nap, I always find that to be the most effective.

A time you made a mistake at work and how you bounced back:

I had a correspondent who sent a notice of bar late a day late and I calculated the date of filing of the plea from the date I received the notice by mistake. Our plea was filed a day later, very early in the morning though, but we had effectively been barred at that stage.

The opposing attorney would not grant me an indulgence even though I called immediately and alerted him to the situation. I had to make my supervising director and client aware of the situation, which I did. We had to file for condonation, which was granted but the moral of the story is always to double check when notices were actually served on correspondents!

A physical or spiritual practice you have adopted:

I pray a LOT! People aren’t always aware of how religious I am. My mother is a praying woman and she has taught me to pray for and over everything. I pray at the start of every arbitration, for every trial, I pray for my presentations and meetings if I am feeling nervous. I pray in the car to work, sometimes silently and sometimes I verbalize my prayers.

My faith is at the centre of everything I am and do. I am able to get over a lot of negative things at work and in my personal life because of my faith.

If not law, what would you be doing:

As a child I wanted to be a journalist because I loved reading and writing, nothing excited me more than writing essays! I would probably be a fashion journalist though, I love love love clothes and fashion.

Bad recommendations or assumptions about law that you often hear?

People assume that lawyers do everything and they don’t understand how specialized the legal profession has become. Yes we have general practitioners but not all of us can represent you at your divorce mediation or attend to your cousin’s bail application. People also assume that we are argumentative and confrontational.

Can you share something you are struggling with right now?

Balance. I have other roles outside of my career, I am a wife/daughter/friend, amongst many things and I struggle with giving all the other roles as much attention because my career tends to be the main focus. I am working very hard on this though.

The best or most worthwhile investment you have ever made? 

Spiritually it’s my relationship with God, emotionally my marriage and best friendship with my husband and financially it’s our home.

Major goal for the next 5 years:

To have positioned myself as an expert in my practice area and to pursue that LLM that I have been delaying. My gran reminded me of that the other day J.

Quote you live your life by:

I’m not one for quotes but I do believe that we can achieve anything we put our minds to, if we are brave enough to take the first step, walk the hard road and persevere. God will take care of the rest.

How can people get in touch with you:


LinkedIn: Thethe Mokele

Instagram: the.the_m

While I was in Lagos, Nigeria I had the wonderful opportunity to meet this week Werk Crush Wednesday, Derin Fagbure who is the editor of In Black and White (@inblack_and_white) where she talks about the law of business in a way that is relatable to start up entrerepeneurs. She is a Senior Associate in the Business and Transaction Support Group of a Lagos, Nigeria based law firm called Esher & Makarios.



Tell Us:

Your Qualifications:
I am a graduate of Igbinedion University and I have a Master’s Degree in Corporate Law from University College London. I am a member of the African Society of Crowdfunding. My column “In Black and White” which is published in Thisday Law discusses innovations in corporate governance and finance. I am passionate about entrepreneurs and write regularly on legal structures for SMEs through my brand “In Black and White”.

Your practice areas: 
I am a corporate lawyer with interest in corporate finance, corporate governance, mergers and acquisitions. I am particularly passionate about the need to establish legal structures for small businesses.

The reaction when people find out you are a lawyer:  
I typically get this response. “Oh Barrister! Thank God I am free to get into trouble, knowing that you will defend me.”  (I dislike the use of the appellation Barrister by the way).

 A major move in the last 5 years:
The opportunity to go on secondment to an international law firm was exciting. I am most grateful to God for becoming a Senior Associate which was a major move for me. Growing and developing the “In Black and White” brand which is aimed at creating business law awareness for entrepreneurs is another move that I am thankful for.

Why you chose to study law: 
When I was 5 years old my Aunt’s picture at her call to bar ceremony caught my attention and inspired me to want to become a lawyer- I liked how she looked in her wig and gown. I asked my mum who is a Chartered Accountant if she and my dad had any uniform and she said their uniform was their suits. I did not fancy that and so I made up my mind to be a lawyer!

My dad, may his soul rest in peace,  took my friend and I to watch a court room proceeding during our vacation and this further sparked my interest.

Something you wish you could change about legal practice: 
I appreciate the need to preserve the traditional nature of the legal profession but also think it is important to infuse some modernity into the way we practice law. Technology and its advantages should be embraced to the fullest. The use of legalese in drafting is something I am uncomfortable with. For me, the simpler, the better.

Also I am extremely passionate about young lawyers and I believe the profession has been quite unfair to young lawyers. The welfare of the younger members of the legal profession should be prioritized with attention being given to pay structure, conditions of work and work environment. The importance of a conducive work environment to efficiency and productivity cannot be over-emphasized.

How do you network:
I am quite active in my local bar association. I currently serve as the Chairman of the Young lawyers Association. I look out for and attend conferences that are relevant to my areas of interest. I call that deliberate networking.

I am very good with faces (even if I say so myself) and so I never have a tough time remembering people I meet at events. I am currently making a conscious effort to keep in touch and communicate regularly with the people in my tribe.  My tribe is valuable to me because we share ideas, collaborate and strengthen each other.

I am open to coffee dates and lunch meetings because I find it easier to have valuable conversation over a good meal. I guess there is nothing wrong with liking good food.

Whats your “Go-To” beauty staple and closet item? 
My Ruby Woo lipstick any day anytime. A pop of red makes all the difference even on the dullest of days. For my closet item, I would say a black dress works for me any day any time. I also cannot do without my pearls, too. I think they give a classy and professional look.

Describe your Werk style: 
My style personality is dramatic and elegant. I create drama with my accessories. A brooch here, a scarf there. I wear a lot of dresses too. I am not one to wear a lot of colours. I love black and white in all forms, stripes, polka dots, houndstooth, etc. I dress down on Fridays- jeans and an infusion of African prints, if I am not going to court or attending a formal meeting.

When stressed or overwhelmed, what do you do to refocus: 
Grab a bar of chocolate or drink a cup of green tea.

A physical or spiritual practice you have adopted: 
My daily goal is to be closer to my God. My best spiritual practice is worship, because I see worship as a way of expressing my gratitude to the One who was, is and will always be. Anyone who knows me well knows I love singing.

My nursery school report once said “Derin loves singing and dancing”. My dad seeing this comment, advised me not to make a career in singing and dancing!

If not law, what would you be doing: 
Law, law and law again.

Bad recommendations or assumptions about law that you often hear:
I often frown when people say lawyers are liars. I also do not like the assumption that lawyers are trouble makers.

What would you say to yourself in the first year of university:
I wish I had done a lot more socially. I had good grades in my first year but I could participated in more extra-curricular activities. I have undergraduate mentors and I always tell them the importance of playing the balancing game.  Probably, I should have taken part in competition which would have given me a greater opportunity to develop a wider field of influence.

Can you share something you are struggling with right now?
I am working on being better on managing my emotions. I think sometimes I get too emotional and sentimental. I also need to learn how to say no, I guess this is tied to being overly emotional. 

Major goal for the next 5 years:
5 years is a long time. When I say a long time, I mean sufficient time to make life changing decisions. I trust that I would be a better person, both personally and career wise. I believe strongly in personal and career development. Therefore I have highlighted a number of courses I would like to do to in order to better position myself career wise- so I want to go back to school.

Quote you live your life by: 
To put my damn best into all I do. My mum and dad always said I should work for a 110% if my goal is to get an A. I strive to do that. I must admit that it is not the easiest of things!