After conducting the Werk Crush Wednesday interviews I realised that women did not have a plan around how to network intentionally. In the legal profession, women of colour have challenges with finding clients and building big practices, and without networking platforms- its going to remain difficult. I decided that I wanted to create an event to promote networking and to allow for natural mentorship to occur, as legal professionals. This led to the birth of The Legal Werk Brunch!
Our speakers were incredible, from the Legal Advisor of the President of the Republic of South Africa- Advocate Nokukhanya Jele sharing us about her work, style and journey. We also had Akunna Onwu and Vennduke Chigumba sharing about the value of coaching and creating a personal brand respectively. It was important for the speakers to highlight how lawyers can be autonomous and create their own brand while being part of a large firm and in the larger legal industry.
From a poster to in person
All our speakers were phenomenal and were relatable, speaking in a way that is genuine, empathetic and shared a lot from their personal experiences. Listening Advocate Jele her talking about her work- how Oliver Reginald Tambo was the first to suggest that she should become a lawyer- because she was an argumentative child, tp how she flunked out of university in France and worked as an administrator in a financial institution for the rest of the year. She then moved to New York to complete her studies in Political Science, which she then crowned with an LLM. (She did her LLB after obtaining her LLM)
She shared about feeling that she didn’t fit into the South African landscape as a mixed race child in apartheid and how she found belonging by going door to door conducting a research study in some of the poorest areas of Cape Town as an intern. She shared the gems of wisdom she received from Constitutional Court Chief Justice Pius Langa – who she clerked for- and how his humble wisdom and excellence still guides her to this day. She reenacted her sleepy voice when she received a call from President Cyril Ramaphosa! (See the video on our Instagram)
She cautioned the younger legal professionals to be patient with our journeys- as things rarely make sense in the moment- but to keep doing what we need to do, until we can do what we want to do!
I took her through some of the questions we ask our Werk Crush Wednesday and her response to a bad recommendation about law- was that she wishes clients would have a lawyer present from Day 1, as opposed to waiting until Day 78. “If a lawyer is in the room on Day 1, chances are- you won’t get to to Day 78.” Isn’t so true?!
When she is stressed or overwhelmed, in a meeting, she will start to write her thoughts to collect herself and do her best to keep a straight face. She also writes herself lots of little notes including this quote from the poem ‘Fleurs du mal’ by Charles Baudelaire which says “La, tout n’est qu’ordre et beaute, luxe, calme et volupte.” (There is all order and beauty, luxury, peace and pleasure). Her closet staples are a good pair of flats and although she doesnt wear make up- she is part of the Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb squad!
Pensive, yet attentive and so patient.
Our attendees ranged from high school students, law students, legal advisors in bank and corporates, lawyers who run their firms, lawyers in big law firms to advocates.
Grade 12’s from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls
A big thank you to our sponsors from Hogan Lovells who provided an amazing venue and PPS who sponsored the food. I want to make a special thank you to some partners at Hogan Lovells who also made a cash contribution towards the day!
Hogan Lovells Terrace
Out of the Legal Werk, we have decided to birth The Netwerk which is primarily focused on meeting the objective above- of creating a platform for women in law to network. I had such goosebumps watching the women be so engaged and offer up opportunities to expose some junior lawyers to other legal fields. Keep in touch for updates about next year events as both The Legal Werk and The Netwerk! The Legal Werk will continue to have industry wide discourses and stay tuned for whats to come next!
Thank you all for coming on the day, engaging and making this day a success!
The Legal Werk